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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.
‘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.’