Helen Garner biography

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Helen Garner
Photo: Nicholas Purcell

Helen Garner

Helen Garner Biography

Helen Garner was born in Geelong, Australia, in 1942. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Melbourne, after which she became a high school teacher.

After leaving teaching in 1972, she turned to writing. Her award-winning books include novels, stories, screenplays, and works of nonfiction, including Monkey Grip, The First Stone, and Joe Cinque’s Consolation, and in 2008 The Spare Room - her first work of fiction in fifteen years. Her fiction has won numerous awards. She is also one of Australia's most respected non-fiction writers, and received a Walkley Award for journalism in 1993.

Helen has been married three times, and has a child from her first marriage. She currently lives in Australia.



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Interview

Helen Garner talks about her first fictional work - The Spare Room - and what led her to explore the themes of friendship and death in this book.

The Spare Room is your first novel for 15 years. Why did you decide to write it now and why this subject?
I had been publishing fiction, and making a living between books by writing feature journalism, since 1977, and thought of myself as both a novelist and a journalist. In the early 1990s I published a book called The First Stone, about a Melbourne University sexual harassment case; it took issue with a certain kind of victim feminism of the time, and to my great surprise (and a lot of people’s severe annoyance) it stayed on the best-seller list for months. Then I published Joe Cinque’s Consolation, an account of two Canberra murder trials, which was also well received. By then I thought I’d found my metier, and wondered if I would ever get back across the border into fiction. But then a friend I loved died of cancer. I needed to write about it. I didn’t want to write memoir or non-fiction: I wanted to go back to the freedom of fiction, where you can claim ownership of the material, and handle it in any way that enables you to create a larger, deeper truth.

The narrator, like you, is named Helen. Why did you call her that?
I called her Helen because, although the book is a novel (see above), I didn&#...

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Books by this Author

Books by Helen Garner at BookBrowse
The Spare Room jacket
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All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Helen Garner but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
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  • Emily Chenoweth

    Emily Chenoweth

    Emily Chenoweth is a former fiction editor of Publishers Weekly. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Bookforum, and People, among other publications. She lives in Portland, Oregon. (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    The Spare Room

    Try:
    Hello Goodbye
    by Emily Chenoweth

  • Nancy H. Dahm

    Nancy H. Dahm

    Nancy Hassett Dahm is a registered nurse who specializes in cancer care. Her experience in caring for over 400 cancer patients, since 1991, is the basis of knowledge for this book. Over the years, she has developed ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    The Spare Room

    Try:
    Mind, Body and Soul
    by Nancy H. Dahm

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