How much of ourselves must we give up to help a friend in need? Helen has little idea what lies aheadand what strength she must musterwhen she offers her spare room to an old friend, Nicola, who has arrived in the city for cancer treatment. Skeptical of the medical establishment, and placing all her faith in an alternative health center, Nicola is determined to find her own way to deal with her illness, regardless of the advice Helen offers.
In the weeks that follow, Nicolas battle for survival will turn not only her own life upside down but also those of everyone around her. The Spare Room is a magical gem of a bookgripping, moving, and unexpectedly funnythat packs a huge punch, charting a friendship as it is tested by the threat of death.
Regardless of the ending, the dynamics of giving and taking would interest anyone that has ever experienced a similar situation. As the caregiver, one may question where to draw the line between allowing the patient as much dignity as possible and stepping in when he or she no longer seems to be rational. As the patient, one may worry about burdening others. Readers that have never played either role aren't likely to be drawn to the more visceral realities of tending to the dying, but the enduring theme of friendship has every potential to override any initial hesitations about this title. (Reviewed by Karen Rigby).
As it wears on, the narrative becomes clouded by litanies of worsening symptoms and platitudes about death, and Helen's bickering about the treatment-while valid-become grating and tiresome.
Wit, simplicity and scorching honesty distinguish an understated triumph.
Garner's neat prose suits these two crusty dames, who drag themselves through a situation where, ultimately, love is all that counts. Highly recommended
The Sunday Times (UK)
In its bleak and highly comic storytelling, in spite, or perhaps, because of its subject matter, The Spare Room could be called a comedy of manners, in that its concern is how people behave towards each other and the repercussion of that behavior. 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.
The Telegraph (UK)
Gripping and invigorating. . . . [Garner's] style, conversational but never slack, is natural, supple, and exact, her way of seeing is acute and sympathetic, you receive an instant impression of being in the company of a congenial friend and it is impossible not to follow her as she brings to life the events and feelings she is exploring. . . . Garner is amply endowed . . . with a writer’s instinct. It has enabled her to make a fiercely truthful book that is also beautiful. . . . A book so sensitive, sad, funny and alive that it surely deserves an honored place on many shelves.
The Australian - Geoffrey Lehmann The Spare Room is a story of tough love and friendship and amazement at the bravado and resourcefulness of human beings in the face of death, written in a prose that has surgical precision. This reviewer knows at least one old man who does read novels: himself. Read this novel. It is truer than nonfiction.
Swift, beautiful, and relentless, The Spare Room is a brutal novel in the best sense.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Carol 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... Read More
Rated of 5
by Lee 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,... Read More
Rated of 5
by Hayley H. Wonderful I knew this book was a novel when I purchased it but forgot very quickly once I began. I am currently caring for a cancer patient at home and have been finding this experience almost unbearable at times, just watching his slow and heartbreaking... Read More
Rated of 5
by Gina 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.
Rated of 5
by Carole A spare but not sparse read - The Spare Room In the hands of a lesser writer the theme of this novel -- a woman who takes into her home an in-denial, dying friend -- could slip into the maudlin, mawkish, or morose. In the capable hands of Helen Garner, it never does. While emotions of fear,... Read More
Rated of 5
by Marion 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... Read More
Cancer is the term used to describe any
malignant growth or tumor caused by abnormal and uncontrolled cell division.
A cancer is described as Stage 4 when it has spread from the original site to other
parts of the body. When we first meet Nicola, she has already undergone surgery
and chemotherapy. Below are some of the alternative treatments she tries during the course of the book:
The American Cancer Society has a poor view of colon therapywhich
involves the cleansing of the large intestine with up to 20 gallons of liquid
that might include water, herbal solutions, enzymes or other substances such as
coffee. Proponents of colon therapy say that detoxifying the body through
the removal of accumulated waste from the colon increases the efficiency of the
body's natural healing abilities.
Dr. Max Gerson introduced
coffee enemas in the 1920's as part of
a plan that emphasized a diet based on more natural foods and on detoxification
of the body. The rationale is...
U.S. ebook sales up in 2012, but rate of growth is slowing(May 16 2013) In 2012, trade book sales (i.e. non academic book sales) rose 6.9%, to $15.049 billion, and e-book sales continued to grow, although the rate of growth...