This House of Grief by Helen Garner

August 23, 2016

This house of grief

Rated: 4/5

Genre: Non-fiction/crime

Publisher: Text Publishing

This House of Grief is Helen Garner’s account of the court case for Robert Farquharson; a father who, on Father’s Day of 2005, drove his car and his three young sons into a dam. Only Robert survived. This is the story of what lead up to that day, the relationship between the boys’ mother and father, and, ultimately, an agonising quest for justice.

The story of this court case is told as if you, the reader, as in the court room sitting next to Helen Garner. You come to know the prosecutor and the defense teams working on the case, the police force involved, and perhaps most heartbreakingly, the mother who has lost her three young sons.

This case gained widespread media attention in Australia and Garner allows readers to experience some of the happenings behind the scenes in court – it’s gruesome, it’s confronting and it’s extremely sad. This book really makes you think about the importance of mental health support and how we, as a society, can come to understand more of what drives people to make horrific mistakes. Perhaps by having more of an understanding about this we can try to prevent more tragedies happening before they do.

I think this book is an astonishing achievement of Helen Garner as I can’t even imagine how challenging it must have been to study this harrowing, heartbreaking case of Australian true crime history. Garner has achieved a piece of work of such high standard (as you can see from the long list of awards and shortlists the work received) and has kept it captivating and real. There are parts of This House of Grief which are tedious and repetitive, but that plays perfectly into the feelings of monotony and attention to detail required in a complex, mysterious criminal case. I recommend this book for readers of true crime, mystery and anyone who remembers this tragedy in recent Australian history.

If you’d like to hear more about Helen Garner’s process of writing This House of Grief, I highly recommend watching this interview with Jennifer Byrne: Interview with Helen Garner.

Buy a copy of This House of Grief from Booktopia.


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