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The Spare Room

The Spare Room

Helen Garner

  • awardWinner, Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction
  • awardWinner, Queensland Premier’s Award for Fiction
  • awardWinner, Barbara Jefferis Award
  • awardShortlisted, Commonwealth Writers’ Prize
  • awardShortlisted, Australian Literary Society Gold Medal
  • awardShortlisted, Colin Roderick Award
  • awardShortlisted, WA Premier’s Awards
  • awardShortlisted, NSW Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction
  • Helen prepares her spare room for her friend Nicola, who is flying down from Sydney for a three-week visit. But this is no ordinary visit—Nicola has advanced cancer. She is coming to Melbourne to receive treatment she believes will cure her.

    From the moment Nicola steps off the plane, Helen becomes her nurse, her protector, her guardian angel and her stony judge.

    The Spare Room tells a story of compassion and rage as the two women—one sceptical, one stubbornly serene—negotiate their way through Nicola’s gruelling treatments. Garner’s dialogue is pitch perfect, her sense of pacing flawless as this novel draws to its terrible and transcendent finale.


    BBC: World Book Club  

    Helen Garner
    About the Author

    Helen Garner writes novels, stories, screenplays and works of non-fiction. In 2006 she received the inaugural Melbourne Prize for Literature, and in 2016 she won the prestigious Windham–Campbell Prize for non-fiction. In 2019 she was honoured with the Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature. And in 2023 she was awarded the...

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    Text publication date:
    28 September 2009
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    Praise for Helen Garner
    andThe Spare Room

    ‘Garner’s gradual awakening to her unadmitted anger is what gives her best book, her novel The Spare Room, much of its shattering power…The novel closes: “It was the end of my watch, and I handed her over.” Helen has done as much as she can do. It is a typical Garner sentence, a writing lesson (all novels should end as completely) and a life lesson: spare, deserved, and complexly truthful, both a confession of failure and a small song of success.’

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