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Helen Garner is one of Australia’s most important and most admired writers. She is revered for her fearless honesty in the pursuit of her craft.
But Garner also courts controversy, not least because she refuses to be constrained by the rules of literary form. She has never been afraid to write herself into her nonfiction, and many of her own experiences help to shape her fiction. But who is the ‘I’ in Helen Garner’s work?
Bernadette Brennan’s A Writing Life is the first full-length study of Garner’s forty years of work, a literary portrait that maps all of her books against the different stages of her life.
Brennan has had access to previously unavailable papers in Garner’s archive, and she provides a lively and rigorous reading of the books, journals and correspondence of one of Australia’s most beloved women of letters.
‘Billed as “the first full-length study of Garner’s 40 years of work, a literary portrait that maps all of her books against the different stages of her life”. Well, who wouldn’t want to read that?’
‘Brennan’s depiction of Garner’s fearless approach to the very difficult subjects of The First Stone, Joe Cinque’s Consolation and This House of Grief is beautifully modulated and a real triumph. She has captured and interpreted an important writer and her work beautifully.’
‘A timely and important book. It’s a critical biography, with a deft and intelligent focus on the whole body of Garner’s work, but rich in biographical detail to situate the course of a writing life in the lived experience which produced it. The works are analysed meticulously, sensitively, carefully, and the reader’s reward is to be granted access to a biographical context for each book which richly enhanced our understanding and appreciation of Garner’s long and wonderful career…Beautifully modulated and a real triumph. She has captured and interpreted an important reader and her work beautifully.’
‘The New York Times journalist Richard Eder once wrote that a skilled interviewer needs “alertness to the answer that hints at a life half-hidden and stimulates a question that gets it to emerge, shake itself and look around”. Brennan possess this rare talent and she proves a canny interlocutor for Garner, their conversations forming an essential and fascinating part of the book…Brennan herself writes with an eloquence and perceptiveness equal to her subject. Her tone is never overly reverential or adulatory, the close analysis of the texts is lucid and intelligent and she is not afraid to prove difficult and controversial aspects of Garner’s life and work.’