Thursday 13 April 2017

Experience A Whirlwind of Emotions in This House of Grief by Helen Garner

Title: This House of Grief
Author: Helen Garner
Publication Date: August 20th, 2014
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On the evening of 4 September 2005, Robert Farquharson, a separated husband, was driving his three sons home to their mother when his car plunged into a dam. The boys, aged ten, seven, and two, drowned. Was this an act of deliberate revenge or a tragic accident? The court case became Helen Garner's obsession. She was in the courtroom every day of Farquharson's trial and subsequent retrial, along with countless journalists and the families of both the accused and his former wife.

In this utterly compelling book, Helen Garner tells the story of a man and his broken life. At its core is a search for truth that takes author and reader through complex psychological terrain. Garner exposes, with great compassion, that truth and justice are as complex as human frailty and morality.


It's hard to give such a novel a rating, due to the nature of it. I rarely do read non fiction, although that's something I'm trying to change.

Garner is renowned for her recounts of criminal cases, and I can understand why. She adds a personal flair to the case, which makes reading it a lot more comfortable. Covering a murder trial is never easy, especially one in which the father is accused of killing his children. I commend Garner for enduring through the countless trials conducted over the years. She writes in a way, which presents the facts, but also prompts readers to critically analyse both the prosecution and defences arguments. Garner writes of her thoughts and feelings but does not endeavour to force them on the reader, which I really apppreciate. Whilst reading it, I found that I was made to think for myself and really come to a decision.

The case itself is one that is absolutely shocking, but having occurred in 2005, I was young and barely remember the case. This House of Grief gave me the insight I needed to fill I'm th gaps. At times the recount of the trial did become dreary and I glossed over parts of it. However, I felt like that was due to the way that trial was conducted, and not necessarily Garner's writing. There's only so much glamorising that can be done, without losing the reality of the case. The ending really picked up, and the intensity of the case was reflected perfectly. I flew through the last 100 pages purely because of how fast paced and engrossing the trial became. Truly, I did feel like I was in the court right next to her.

I felt such a rush of different emotions reading This House of Grief, but nothing beats the sorrow I feel for the three young boys. Garner conveys this Grief perfectly, narrating that we cannot sympathise having never lost a child, but through the course of the trial the three boys have become “ours” - ours to mourn over and to fear for our own children - which I believe to be true.

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