Read advance reader review of The Spare Room by Helen Garner, page 3 of 3

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The Spare Room

A Novel

by Helen Garner

The Spare Room by Helen Garner X
The Spare Room by Helen Garner
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2009, 192 pages

    Feb 2010, 192 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby
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There are currently 19 member reviews
for The Spare Room
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  • Joyce (El Segundo CA)
    Almost got through it without crying
    I read this book in a night, it's short and bittersweet. I'm not sure how I would have felt about this book if I hadn't had a sister die of cancer, it was more painful to read because I kept thinking of all she went through. I wish I could have cared for her like the author cares for her friend. Its not just a pretty story, its very truthful and shows all the emotions that caregivers go through. I recommend this book for a quick read and for its honesty and forthrightness.
  • Joan (Evanston IL)
    An Australian Exploding Doormat
    The Spare Room by Helen Garner, an Australian writer who I hadn’t read before, is a fast and intense read. I really didn’t want to put it down. The story is completely focused on the relationship between the first person protagonist, Helen, and Nicola, an old friend who is suffering from stage four cancer.

    Nicola, who lives outside Sydney, comes to stay with Helen, who lives near Melbourne, when she is undergoing an alternative therapy for cancer. This is an “exploding doormat” story: Helen is the dutiful friend who finds that more and more of her time and energy are used to accommodate Nicola’s needs, physical and mental. Finally, when Nicola’s niece comes to stay, she realizes that she’s been put in position beyond her abilities and she explodes with anger.

    I writhed with recognition at a situation that seemed so realistic to me – who can measure how far a friendship should go? I particularly liked the setting of Australia, where what is everyday to the characters came across as exotic to an American reader. I would have liked a bit more backstory about how the relationship between the two friends developed, but that might have cut the intensity of the plot, which was tightly focused on the relationship between the two women. Although the story is primarily about friendship, the details of the progress of cancer and the desperation of the treatment are extremely intense for someone looking for an escapist novel
  • Lynn (Cary NC)
    The Spare Room by Helen Garner
    Set in Melbourne, Australia, this short novel explores the relationship of two friends, Helen and Nikola. Nikola spends three weeks as Helen's guest while undergoing treatments for her terminal cancer. The plot moves along quickly and the reading is easy. The characters are not very well developed, however, so that the reader actually doesn't care too much about the outcome. What should have been a very moving tale is ultimately a let-down.
  • Carol (Leland NC)
    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.
  • Kathy (Eaton OH)
    The Spare Room
    I found the story depressing. I admired Helen for being able to offer her friend a place to come and be while undergoing treatment, even as unorthodox as it was, and trying to be compassionate all the while growing more and more tired and frustrated. The book was not an enjoyable read to me.
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