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Introduction by Charlotte Wood
An elegant hardback edition of the novel that launched Helen Garner’s career.
Helen Garner’s gritty, lyrical first novel divided the critics on its publication in 1977. Today, Monkey Grip is regarded as a masterpiece—the novel that shines a light on a time and a place and a way of living never before presented in Australian literature: communal households, music, friendships, children, love, drugs, and sex.
When Nora falls in love with Javo, she is caught in the web of his addiction; and as he moves between loving her and leaving, between his need for her and promises broken, Nora’s life becomes an intense dance of loving and trying to let go.
‘Garner is a natural storyteller.’
‘This is the power of Garner’s writing. She drills into experience and comes up with such clean, precise distillations of life, once you read them they enter into you. Successive generations of writers have felt the keen influence of her work and for this reason Garner has become part of us all.’
‘Her use of language is sublime.’
‘Penetrating, direct, frank, funny. Uncomfortable at times, but always searching for truth. The term ‘national treasure’ is overused but Helen Garner really is the sort of writer one wants to haul out and gloat over regularly.’
‘I am sixteen, I pick up Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip off the shelf, and I start reading. One hour later, I am sitting cross-legged on the bookshop floor, still devouring it. I am falling in love with Nora and I am falling in love with Garner.’
‘The novel unravelled me when I first read it. The writing is so sharp it’s almost wounding, and it consolidates so many of my personal interests: doomed love, new iterations of family and–of course–swimming pools.’
‘Monkey Grip was one of the first recognisably Melbourne novels I read…It was populated by people who spoke, felt and behaved in a way I could recognise, who cared about familiar things, were flawed in ways that rang true to me. I’ve returned to it every few years since. It still leaves me feeling like I’ve come through a spin cycle.’
‘Monkey Grip is a book about being young. It celebrates love, lust, confusion and pain with an intensity undiminished over decades.’
‘This book makes me remember the person I was in my youth. Like all Garner’s work, it also makes me examine who I am now.’
‘[Monkey Grip] was my first Helen Garner novel, and it had a profound effect on me. Hot, fresh, plain Australian language. I’d finally read something that felt familiar.’
‘Monkey Grip taught me as no other book had that women’s experience can be central, not peripheral…I was fifteen when I first read it and it altered me irrevocably, as all great literature should.’
‘Its embattled characters are so real that by the last page you feel not just that you have read a magnificent novel but that you have experienced life itself.’