Advance reader reviews of The Spare Room by Helen Garner.

The Spare Room

By Helen Garner

The Spare Room
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2009,
    192 pages.

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There are currently 19 member reviews
for The Spare Room
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  • Carol (Mendham NJ)


    Trying Times
    The Spare Room focuses on Helen who decides to take on the role of caretaker for her friend Nicola who has terminal cancer but refuses to consider the possibility of death. My impression was Helen truly cared for Nicola but did not envision the care required due to Nicola's continuing pursuit of alternative treatments.

    I was struck by Helen's continual whining and I was saddened and embarrassed by her response to Nicola's desire to seek life even when the treatment was so harsh. I did not feel the bond between the two women and I was struck by how lonely Nicola must have felt towards the end.

    I did not find Helen's treatment of her friend and her condition enlightening. The story was a tragedy of a friendship during very adverse times.
  • Lee (Creve Coeur MO)


    The Spare Room
    Helen Garner has written a sensitive novel about friendship and death. She cleverly knits them together and writes a profound and gratifying book.

    Her setting is Australia, and Helen, who lives in Melbourne, is expecting an acquaintance Nicole, from Sydney, to come and visit for a few weeks. What ensues in these weeks is occasionally funny, but always thought provoking and enjoyable.
  • Sadie (Portland OR)


    The Spare Room
    This was a compelling story. The author successfully conveys the complexities of witnessing a loved one's move toward death. Contrary to the subject matter, it is not depressing...rather the story is affirming. I liked it fine.
  • Janice (Unionville CT)


    the Spare Room
    An engaging,eloquent tale which explores the demands of friendship. The unsuspecting and at times, unwilling Helen agrees to care for her friend Nicola who is coping with the ravages of end-stage cancer. Nicola seems to have been a difficult person, self -centered and unrealistic even when in the best of health. Helen who is patient and forbearing learns a good deal about herself as well as about her friend during this ordeal.

    The author has a knack for presenting the grim realities of the sickroom. I would definitely read further work of this author.
  • Marion (Issaquah WA)


    Could You Do This?
    "The Spare Room" is told by Helen, whose friend, Nicola, suffering from late-stage cancer, asks to stay in her home for three weeks. Nicola has come to Helen's city to seek help through alternative medicine: deplorable and absurd practices which horrify Helen.
    What a difficult situation in which to find oneself--and as you read this beautifully written book, you ask yourself how you personally would handle things. Could you be supportive and tolerant? Could you retain your love for a once-vibrant friend as she loses so much? This is a challenging book to read, but it is not without humor and irony, and love and honesty do triumph.
  • Eileen (Danvers MA)


    The Spare Room is short but very sweet
    While I read this book in an afternoon it was a wonderful read. Helen Garner writes eloquently and, at times, humorously, about friendship, fear, self preservation, and dying. She is able to articulate what so many of us go through when someone we love is sick.

    The story moves quickly and the characters are vibrant and three dimensional. I identified with this book on many levels, which to me is the mark of a well written story.

    This book will resonate with anyone who loves their friends, but at times wonder what the heck they are thinking as they make decisions in their lives, and struggle mightily to support them anyway.
  • Jeanne (Richmond Heights OH)


    Facing cancer with hope and realism...
    This novel is concise and competently explores the tenuous hope given by, as well as the inevitable pitfalls of, alternative cancer treatments. The interactions between the two main characters are presented realistically and directly. Some of the physical details of one character's suffering from terminal cancer might be a little too graphic for the squeamish reader, but the novel's sense of place (Melbourne, Australia) adds interest and variety. Definitely a worthwhile book.
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