Customer Reviews for

The Spare Room: A Novel

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2012


    So much emotion in this little book. The story will be indelibly written in my mind.

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  • Posted April 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer


    Helen lives in Melbourne, Australia and her friend Nicola from Sydney is going to be staying with Helen for a few weeks while she undergoes a holistic treatment for cancer that no longer responds to normal medical interventions. Helen is unprepared for how sick Nicola is, but also the fact that Nicola is in complete denial about her health. Helen is very suspicious of the treatment Nicola is receiving. As she spends several times a night changing Nicola's sheets and caring for her, Helen wants to call in palliative care. But Nicola won't hear of it. Helen finds that the more Nicola acts as if nothing is wrong, the angrier Helen becomes. She enlists the help of Nicola's family but no one is able to get through to her and Helen finds she can't wait for Nicola to just leave and become someone else's problem.

    My review: I wasn't expecting to like this book. I honestly don't recall requesting it from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer's. Yet somehow I not only enjoyed this, it was one of the books that helped me out of my reading slump.
    Garner writes directly and the story is unsentimental and compelling. And it only 175 pages, I read it in one sitting. Despite it's shortness, the story was fulfilling: funny, smart, touching, and brave.

    "Peggy glanced at me. Horrified sympathy passed along her eye beams. It weakened me. A huge wave of fatigue rinsed me from head to foot. I was afraid I would slide off the bench and measure my length among the cut roses. At the same time a chain of metallic thoughts went clanking through my mind, like the first dropping of an anchor: death will not be denied. To try is grandiose. It drives madness into the soul. It leaches out virtue. It injects poison into friendship, and makes a mockery of love."

    This was a powerful book, very stark and really made me think. How far would we go to care for one we loved? Would I be able to tolerate someone refusing to accept the possibility of death and killing themselves with treatments that have no credibility? I think I would have speak my mind and not hold it all in.
    here Iris, Nicola's niece tries to explain this to Helen.

    "Want to hear my theory? said Iris. There's a lot of horribleness that Nicola refuses to countenance. But it won't just go away. It can't because it exists. So somebody else has to sort of live it. It's in the air around here. Like static. I felt it when she walked into the house tonight...It's like getting a madness injection."

    This was a great book, strong but not depressing. I highly recommend it.

    my rating 4.5/5

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  • Posted July 9, 2009


    If you are a friend, have lost a friend, or just question the importance of a friend, this is the novel for you. Like a good cup of tea, the novel should be given the right amount of time to "steep" so it can be
    appreciated to the fullest.
    Deby Coley

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2009

    Loved this book

    I saw this book at my local library and was attracted by its title, cover, format, author photograph (is anyone else influenced by this?) and opening paragraph. I read this book straight through and loved it. It has great character development and a subject that could be depressing, but is not. We are lucky author Helen Garner decided to write another book after a 16 year hiatus. I hope to find more books by her.

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  • Posted December 15, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    This is a fascinating look at friendship

    Dying from bowel cancer, Nicola decides on an alternate treatment method of vitamin C infusions at the Theodore Institute. Her long time friend Helen invites Nicola to live with her as she has a spare room while she undergoes the radical therapy. The terminal ill woman appreciates the kindness and leaves Sydney for Melbourne.<BR/><BR/>However, as Helen observes Nicola¿s efforts to stay alive, she begins to believe the Theodore Institute is filled with con artists providing magical elixirs that do not work. She fears her friend will die soon anyway and is wasting time better spent with loved ones. On the other hand Nicola believes a miracle is forthcoming leading Helen to wonder if she is the right person to help Nicola die with dignity.<BR/><BR/>This is a fascinating look at friendship as the lead couple see the cancer situation radically different. Helen believes Nicola is foolish wasting her precious last moments and money hoping for a Hail Mary miracle instead of spending what time she has left with her loved ones. Nicola believes Helen is a grump who cannot comprehend life and death as dying has not yet confronted her. Although Helen's eternal squabbling and lecturing become irritating as she either needs to support her friend¿s dying wishes, which centers on miracle treatments that probably will fail or toss her out, readers will relish this poignant character study as the reactions to how to behave when pending death seems shortly.<BR/><BR/>Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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