Garner at her best

This House of Grief - Helen Garner
Paperback, 300 pages, Published August 2014 by Text publishing 


Before I start doing the whole review thing let me say This House of Grief is a remarkable book, just completely remarkable.

On Father’s Day 2005 in Victoria, Australia, three young boys drown when the car their father Robert Farquharson was driving veered off the road and plunged into a dam. The story became national news and for over eight years the question that surrounded the case was it an accident or murder?
For Garner the question of accident or murder is not the driving need to resolve. Garner takes you on a journey; she leads you through the court case, introduces you to the players and tries to unravel the complexities of human nature when dealing with grief. As you read, you feel like Garner is chatting with you, telling you her thoughts, her observations and taking you into her confidence.
You are able to witness the demeanour of the accused, the impact on the Grandparents, the family friends who pick their sides, the antics of the lawyers, the attention span of the jury and the quickly formed opinions of the media. Garner depicts the breakdown of the witnesses as they deal not with being torn apart by the lawyers but by their own guilt.
Garner makes no speeches about domestic violence, there are no tirades on who is right or wrong and the book is stronger for that. The power is in the descriptions, the being placed in the courtroom and allowing yourself to understand the terrible ramifications of what has happened. The ex-wife who steadfastly supports Farquharson in the first trial not believing to her anger by the second trial and the realisation that he just may have done this horrible act.
The style of writing is straight forward but each word is perfectly placed and is almost chatty. The descriptions are wonderful and little details are captured and focused on. It could have been clinical and technical but Garner’s brilliance is that she does not do that.
This book is an insightful exploration of a court case involving the death of three children and how a verdict of guilty or innocent does not make anyone a winner for each person will continue to grieve.

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