The Spare Room by Helen Garner
Helen’s old friend Nicola is coming to stay with her for three weeks while she undergoes an alternative cancer treatment – everything is ready for her. When Nicola arrives, it’s immediately clear that she’s in a really bad state and that even though she won’t admit it, she hasn’t that long to live. Helen has to cope on two fronts – having to be her friend’s carer, and also she’s full of anger at the useless yet expensive treatment Nicola’s receiving – it doesn’t help at all, and Helen is left to pick up the pieces.
This short novel, written after a friend of the author died from cancer, is the brutally honest story of a friendship that is tested to the limit, and the straws people will cling to in the belief that it’ll do them good. Told from Helen’s point of view, you’ll laugh, cry and get angry with her all the way through, and it gives a real glimpse of what it’s like to be a carer – even if only for a short while.
If you’d like to read more, a short interview with the author and excellent review can be found on dovegreyreader scribbles. This novel was fully expected to make the Booker longlist last year but, inexplicably to many, didn’t appear – maybe its brevity got it held back. There was a lot of discussion about whether On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan was a novel or novella the previous year. On a final note, don’t you think the original hardback cover (top right) says a lot that the new paperback cover (top left) doesn’t? (Book supplied by Librarything Early Reviewers programme)