This House of Grief


Thoughts on Helen Garner’s latest book

I’ve just finished reading ‘This House of Grief’, Garner’s latest non-fiction work. It was almost too painful to read at times, not only because of its ghastly subject matter, but also due to Helen’s signature style: holding nothing back, inviting the reader to share with her the horror of seeing a man accused, wrongly or rightly, of drowning his three little sons. This book held a particular resonance for me, because it echoed my own recent experience of witnessing a court case in which two young men were charged, and eventually sentenced, with the death of my fifteen-year-old niece, due to dangerous driving. Yet I couldn’t put the book down, couldn’t wait for the next chapter. Sitting in that Melbourne courthouse, that ‘house of grief’, with Helen, her vivid prose told me I was not alone.

Some people complain of Garner’s writing as too ‘personal’, even invasive. One woman in a former book  group announced that she ‘didn’t’ need people like (Garner) in her life, because Garner sounds too angry.’ We were discussing ‘The Spare Room’ in which anger does play a part, but to my mind only to fuel the exposure of suspect alternative medical practices, and their exploitation of the vulnerable woman in the novel.

See my Post ‘More on Helen Garner’ for some personal recollections.


©Dina Davis


  1. After reading your Thoughts on Helen Garner, I turned to an unread copy of ‘this House of Grief’. After the first page, I was hooked.Thank you Dina. Any other “encounters with authors” would be gratefully received!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You always write beautifully about Helen Garner (and other things that you love). Keep it up. I, too, am a Helen Garner fan.


    • Another encounter with Helen recently at the NewcastleWriters Festival. Talking to a packed house, she described her painful journey in the research and writing of House of Grief. One can only admire her courage, and honesty.


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