In this slim piece of a novel, Helen Garner tells us the story about female friendship, its sorrows and joys specially its limits under the growing pressures of illness. And how are we able to handle circumstances which will eventually test our patience which makes us asked ourselves how much we love someone dear to us. I don’t have any idea why I picked out this particular title especially at the same time after my mother’s cremation thus avoiding topics about illnesses not to mention, death.
Maybe I was just hooked for the raves and praises the novel acquires or was it to focus on some questions that are going inside my head at the time?
Helen, (a self-titled narrator) takes care of her dying friend Nicola who comes to stay at her house for three weeks. Having to put Nicola through her schedules, the sleepless nights, stripping of wet bed sheets including the washing, and the tiring accompaniment through different treatments test Helen the limits of friendship. Helen is on such a state with which she must calculate on what’s important in her life and Nicola’s smiling face and constant refusal about her current condition makes it much harder for her friend.
It is such a wonder how the author tackles a sensitive issue without being sentimental but rather makes it bearable and glorious. While reading, I began to notice why I was stripped-off of the sense to feel something heartbreaking? Why reading something sad and is unable to feel cross? At the end of the novel that contains what we already know, answers why the novel is composed with its unaffecting narratives and triumphantly ends with a satisfying one.
It is really common for us human beings to take for granted something what we have. And although we know the cliché of it all, we still manage not to live by its coming consequences. Because we know, they are just there, beside us and the realization that they’ll be gone doesn’t possess us for we can see an assurance, their smiling faces. Which comes to what we always hope for, that things would come to better. And thus the realization of regret comes just at the end.
Highly readable and is written with sharp observation and in a clear prose, I recommend The Spare Room with all its unsparing glory and wisdom. It deserves to be read in one sitting.
The Spare Room won the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards for Fiction, Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards for Fiction and the Barbara Jefferis Award. The novel is also Short-listed for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize and the Best Book South East Asia and the Pacific Region.
Opening Sentence: First, in my spare room, I swiveled the bed onto a north-south axis.
Ending Sentence: It was the end of my watch, and I handed her over.