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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.
‘It’s a book which asks unavoidable and painful questions, not least about the nature of friendship, with a clarity that offers no room for evasion. It refuses to offer easy answers or false comfort. A book for grown-up people, in other words. And the Lord knows, there are a lot of the other sort about.‘
‘A perfect novel, imbued with all Garner’s usual clear-eyed grace but with some other magnificent dimension that hides between the lines of her simple conversational voice. How is it that she can enter this heart-breaking territory—the dying friend who comes to stay—and make it not only bearable, but glorious, and funny? There is no answer except: Helen Garner is a great writer; The Spare Room is a great book.’
‘The Spare Room : Garner’s first novel in fifteen years, a lean claustrophobic drama about a cancer sufferer and the friend she calls on for help, illuminates the big questions of what it means to be human, and makes me glad I am a reader.’