THIS HOUSE OF GRIEF by Helen Garner.
True Australian Crime.
Recommended for 18 and over. Not recommended for pregnant women.
This House of Grief is a close observation of an Australian murder trial; the trial of a father accused of drowning his three sons on Father’s Day. Set in Melbourne, Victoria, Robert Farquharson was accused and tried of drowning his three sons by driving a car into a dam and fleeing the scene.
To put it lightly, this story is harrowing. Garner interweaves the trail with new reports and her own life at the time of the murder with the events that lead up to the fatal incident. The question that hangs over the entire telling, did he do it?
I purchased my copy of THIS HOUSE OF GRIEF at the Sydney Writers Festival after Helen Garner gave an incredible address at the Recital Hall. There she spoke of HOW WE WRITE ABOUT DARKNESS.Sitting in the Angel Place recital hall, to a full crowd of intrigued and excited fans, Helen Gardner was an incredible force. Her words held us all, as we leant forward, craning for more. It was a wonderful night and I was abe to get my book signed.
The book spans almost seven years in which the court case became HELEN GARNER‘s obsession. She was present in the courtroom every day of Farquharson’s trial and the subsequent retrial, along with countless journalists and the families of both the accused and his former wife. Garner writes not only about the facts of the case as they are presented but also the reactions from the room, the mood and then energy as it rose and feel with the questions.
Garner not only documents the presentation of the evidence and the intimacy of proceedings but allows her own perception and experience to colour the telling. She attempts to ekk out the truth while leaving space for the reader to make their own judgements. Garner turns the story around in her head, looking at it from all angles, doubting her certainty at every turn.
Garner has an acute ability to read people and dissect their mannerisms, body language, and presence. She is an observer in the purest form, seeking out both sides of the argument, wanted to extract the truth. Her observations are so accurate it is exciting. Their is an intimacy found within the mundane that makes this book so gripping.
It is the story of a family breaking apart. It is a study of the Australian legal system.
After a six year break in publishing, she is back. I finished This House of Grief in a week. I cried in public and I took it to the bathroom with me because I simply couldn’t put it down.
As an emerging writer, I think it’s interesting to know Helen Garner does not have a website. She isn’t on Facebook or Instagram and she doesn’t appear to use Twitter. She does not engage in social media at all. Her work and her following speak for themselves. It is easy to get caught up in the hype and branding of being a writer. But Garner is a reminder that creating quality work will be enough.
She is an incredible writer. Her description and observations of people left me in awe, with beautiful metaphors such as
…as Morrissey took Farquharson by the hand drew him into the bombed-out rubble of the story, aiming a hose at every smoking point of doubt, my heart softened again towards the awkward, unhappy figure on the stand.
When This House of Grief was released it was shortlisted for seven writing awards in Australia, winning the Ned Kelly Awards for Crime Writing for Best True Crime. Helen Garner’s work has taught me to appreciate clarity, brevity, and truth.
KILL YOUR DARLINGS review of Helen Garner’s This House of Grief.
Helen Garner PODCAST from the 2015 Sydney Writers Festival, How We Write About Darkness.