This House of Grief: The Story of a Murder Trial Kindle Edition
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- Length: 248 pages
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
- Page Flip: Enabled
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Winner, Ned Kelly Awards, Best True Crime, 2015
A Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year, 2014
On the evening of 4 September 2005, Father’s Day, Robert Farquharson, a separated husband, was driving his three sons home to their mother, Cindy, when his car left the road and plunged into a dam. The boys, aged ten, seven and two, drowned. Was this an act of revenge or a tragic accident? The court case became Helen Garner’s obsession. She followed it on its protracted course until the final verdict.
In this utterly compelling book, Helen Garner tells the story of a man and his broken life. She presents the theatre of the courtroom with its actors and audience, all gathered for the purpose of bearing witness to the truth, players in the extraordinary and unpredictable drama of the quest for justice.
This House of Grief is a heartbreaking and unputdownable book by one of Australia’s most admired writers.
Helen Garner’s first novel, Monkey Grip won the 1978 National Book Council Award, and was adapted for film in 1981. Since then she has published novels, short stories, essays, and feature journalism. In 1995 she published The First Stone, a controversial account of a Melbourne University sexual harassment case. Joe Cinque's Consolation (2004) was a non-fiction study of two murder trials in Canberra. In 2006 Helen Garner received the inaugural Melbourne Prize for Literature. Her most recent novel, The Spare Room (2008), won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction, the Queensland Premier’s Award for Fiction and the Barbara Jefferis Award, and has been translated into many languages. Helen Garner lives in Melbourne.
‘This House of Grief (Text) is a gripping account of a murder trial in which few of the participants act and react in ways we might predict. It’s an examination not just of what happened, but also of what we prefer to believe and what we cannot face believing.’ Julian Barnes, Books of the Year, TLS
‘This House of Grief makes its complexity out of an honest vulnerability…Garner’s book is superbly alive to the narrative dynamics of the case; she tells a grim story of unhappy marriage, limited social opportunity, bitter divorce, and spousal grievance. Again, as in The First Stone, what consumes her are the difficult questions that seem to lie beyond the reach of formal narration: the deepest assumptions of class and gender and power; the problem of how well we ever understand someone else’s motives…Attracted and repelled, Garner circles around the unspeakable abysmal horror. Can any story “explain” why a man might murder his children? She doesn’t pretend to possess the explosive answer, and frequently confesses stupefaction, but her book walks us along an engrossing and plausible narrative fuse…Her narrative is lit by lightning.’ James Wood, New Yorker
‘Helen Garner’s account of the trial is a non-literary variation of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (1966).’ Eileen Battersby, Books of the Year, Irish Times
‘As involving, heart-rending and unsettling a read as you could possibly find, a true-life account of three deaths and a trial that leaves you with a profound sense of unease as its drama unfolds, and disturbing questions about how we judge guilt and innocence.’ The Times
‘This House of Grief is a magnificent book about the majesty of the law and the terrible matter of the human heart...If you read nothing else this year, read this story of the sorrow and pity of innocents drowned and the spectres and enigmas of guilt.’ Peter Craven, Weekend Australian
‘It grabbed me by the throat in the same way that the podcast series “Serial” did. Ms. Garner brilliantly and compassionately recounts the harrowing, real-life trial of Robert Farquharson.’ Gillian Anderson, Wall Street Journal, Books of the Year 2015
The Joan Didion of Australia” writes a masterful book about a real-life family tragedy....Her voice intimate yet sharp, wry yet urgent inspires trust as she pursues a twice-told tale that reveals an unsettling truth as relevant outside the courtroom as inside it: we tell ourselves stories in order to live but also in order to take revenge, to share guilt, to prolong pain, to blur memory and motive.’The Atlantic
Two books in one: an expertly reported, brilliantly written story and, woven into that, Garner’s meditation on the meaning of that story.’Head Butler
As involving, heart-rending and unsettling a read as you could possibly find, a true-life account of three deaths and a trial that leaves you with a profound sense of unease as its drama unfolds, and disturbing questions about how we judge guilt and innocence Tailor-made for those who have gorged recently on the popular true-crime podcast Serial.’The Times
A gripping account of a murder trial in which few of the participants act and react in ways we might predict. It’s an examination not just of what happened, but also of what we prefer to believe and what we cannot face believing.’Julian Barnes
This House of Grief has all the trademark Helen Garner touches: harrowing scenes recorded without restraint or censorship; touching observations of characters’ weaknesses; wry moments of humor. And also customary with Garner’s work, her words, and the boys’ fate, will haunt us long after we’ve turned the last page.’Guardian
Compassionate and dispassionate in equal measure, Helen Garner takes us into the courtroom and shows a melting-pot of venality. She writes with a profound understanding of human vulnerability, and of the subtle workings of love, memory and remorse.’Economist
A masterful picture of the imperfect mechanisms of justice wound into a heartbreaking tale of sorrow and loss It’s been a long time since I read a book that gripped me so wholly Justice, Garner easily demonstrates, can disintegrate into a matter of how bored the jury is. She has a Jane Austen-like ability to whizz an arrow straight into the truest depths of human nature, including her own, with minimal observation. For Fans of: Janet Malcolm, Ann Rule.’The Life Sentence
[A] masterful account of the trial of Robert Farquharson for the 2005 deaths of his three sons...The details of the story are fascinating, and Garner’s crystal-clear writing serves the story well. But the chief impression we are left with is of the complexity of human nature and the impossibility of any justice system to fully account for it...the resulting book is both troubling and deeply satisfying.’Books|ut
The twists and turns of this true-crime story are, in Garner’s hands, more engrossing and dramatic than any thriller. Really, this is the kind of book you’ll devour in one go.’Age
A magnificent book about the majesty of the law and the terrible matter of the human heart. It has its center a feeling of the engulfing powers of love and hate and the way any heart unlucky enough may kill the thing it loves and drown in an eternity of grief. If you read nothing else this year, read this story of the sorrow and pity of innocents drowned and the specters and enigmas of guilt.’Weekend Australian
Clear-eyed and deeply moving Garner’s skills as a novelist combine with her journalist incisiveness to give a vivid, compassionate and complex assessment of the crime and the societal issues surrounding it This House of Grief is a book that preys on the mindits themes are enormous, classical and highly contemporary. Some readers will find they have to put it down, now and again, because the story it tells is so tragically sadbut so compelling that they won’t put it down for long.’NZ Herald
A superbly balanced book about a terribly freighted subject: a violation of parental care of the kind that provokes outrage rather than thoughtfulness. It is also an elegant reiteration of many of the themes and concerns that Garner has, over four decades, made her own.’Saturday Paper
A brilliant, poetic work of jurisprudence Another beauty of Garner’s writing is her exceptional lyricism. Garner’s spare, clean style flowers into magnificent poetry.’Australian Book Review
Superbly done. Garner is one of the finest reporters in this country In the crimes and misdemeanours we commit against one another, she has always found clues to being human.’Monthly
No one can invoke the theater of the law the way Helen Garner does. It isn’t just her acute mind for human psychology or her shimmering gift for metaphor, the masterly economy and dramatic poise with which she shaped the material.’Sydney Morning Herald
Garner sat through [all the trials]: sifting the evidence, observing the duelling lawyers, digging deep into the relationships which contributed to the catastrophe. She has turned a courtroom drama into something deeply human.’Australian Women's Weekly
Helen Garner’s greatest skill is to encourage the reader not to make judgement but to listen.’Jill Eddington, Best Books of the Year, Weekend Australian
A top-quality page-turner. Garner has the gift of universal sympathy: nothing human is alien to her.’David Free, Best Books of the Year, Weekend Australian
Here’s clarity, ferocity and the seesawing ambivalence of love: it took my breath away.’Ashley Hay, Best Books of the Year, Weekend Australian
Tender and electrifying. This House of Grief is Helen Garner’s masterpiece.’ Saturday Paper
Praise for THE SPARE ROOM
'Garner is perhaps most easily introduced to new American readers as the Joan Didion of Australia--a person who writes with a diamond drill, depicting human relationships with such brutal clarity they seem to be rendered for the first time.'Los Angeles Times
'A Molotov cocktail of a book...Her voice is full of unexpected humor.'Minneapolis Star-Tribune
'A book so sensitive, sad, funny, and alive that it surely deserves an honored place on many shelves.'Diana Athill, The Daily Telegraph (UK)
'Two women who have known each other for fifteen years, spending three weeks together with the weight of one crushing disease. How do we calculate what's important in our lives? Highly recommended.'Library Journal (starred review)
'Only great fiction demands us to reset our moral compass and look at our value coordinates all over again. The Spare Room achieves this.'The Times (UK)
'A perfect novel, imbued with all Garner's usual clear-eyed grace but with some other magnificent dimension that hides between the lines of her simple conversational voice. How is it that she can enter this heart-breaking territory--the dying friend who comes to stay--and make it not only bearable, but glorious, and funny? There is no answer except: Helen Garner is a great writer; The Spare Room is a great book.'Peter Carey
'Cleanly-written, sharp, with the authority of lived experience but an artist's penetration of the issues. It provides a portrait very hard to erase, of a child's ego trapped in a failing and ageing body, and it raises uncomfortable questions: what are the limits of friendship? Who will care for a generation that thought it would never get old?' Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall
'Swift, beautiful, and relentless, The Spare Room is a brutal novel in the best sense.'Alice Sebold
About the Author
Since then she has published novels, short stories, essays, and feature journalism. Her screenplay The Last Days of Chez Nous was filmed in 1990. Garner has won many prizes, among them a Walkley Award for her 1993 article about the murder of two-year-old Daniel Valerio.
In 1995 she published The First Stone, a controversial account of a Melbourne University sexual harassment case. Joe Cinque’s Consolation (2004) was a non-fiction study of two murder trials in Canberra.
In 2006 Helen Garner received the inaugural Melbourne Prize for Literature.
Her most recent novel, The Spare Room (2008), has been translated into many languages.
- ASIN : B00KK3NT3C
- Publisher : Text Publishing (August 20, 2014)
- Publication date : August 20, 2014
- Language : English
- File size : 930 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 248 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #403,185 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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Helen Garner sat through the entire six week trial in 2007 and then an appeal and retrial in 2010 hoping to learn the truth. Was this a dreadful accident or a horrific murder carried out as an act of revenge on his wife for dumping him and taking a new partner? Perhaps it was a planned murder/suicide but Farquharson failed to go through with killing himself? Perhaps it wasn’t premeditated at all but happened in an instant in a fit of rage? Throughout the trial Garner doesn’t take sides, she prevaricates between thinking this can’t have been an accident and feeling sorry for the sad, downtrodden man on trial.
While showing us the human faces of this trial, the accused and his estranged wife, their families, the witnesses, the lawyers and judges Garner takes us through the anatomy of a criminal trial. She carefully describes the way in which evidence is given by witnesses and picked apart by the lawyers with the microscopic examination of tiny details often taking up long stifling days. She further shows us the human side of the trial as she watches the unspoken interactions between the accused and his family, listens to the banter and opinions of the journalists and observes the jury’s response to the witnesses and evidence.
Did the jury make the right decision? You’ll have to read the book to see what you think. In the end however, no amount of punishment or retribution can make up for the death of three innocent young boys. As Garner herself concludes
”Every stranger grieves for them. Every stranger’s heart is broken. The children’s fate is our legitimate concern. They are ours to mourn. They belong to all of us now.”
That this was a heartbreaking true-life tragedy was beyond dispute, but the question all along was whether or not it was a tragic accident or whether the defendant knowingly went into the water as some sort of suicide attempt or desire to punish his soon-to-be ex-wife, Cindy Gambino.
Helen Garner takes us inside the courtroom and she brilliantly makes us go back and forth in our own opinions about what happened. She does this in part by having us read the testimony of any given prosecution or defense witness and has us convinced of something and then has us follow the the cross-examination where our opinions change once again. It's so impressive and as a former courtroom trial attorney, I can tell you it's very impressive and real.
It's so hard to think that a man - especially one who adored his children - would kill them. But you also know it's possible. The author really helps us understand what the jury must've gone through making their difficult decision and how trials can seemingly go in the favor of one side only to change momentum and lean towards the other.
Really terrific. I thought there were some slower bits when I was tempted to skim when the author goes into details such as with the testimony of dueling experts - but that's what helps makes this so real and shows why it's so hard for us to form an opinion about what really happened.
Was it a tragic accident, as the father claimed, due to an episode of cough syncope? Was it a failed murder-suicide? Was it a deliberate murder, in order to get back at and punish the wife? Or was it something else?
If I'd read about the tragedy, then I'd subsequently forgotten about it. As a result, I was able to approach it as a mystery, without knowing the outcome.
Helen Garner has provided a readable account - and managed to convey the tedium of the trial, without actually writing anything tedious.
It's not about guilt or innocence (at the end I'm still not certain whether the father was guilty or not), but about being found guilty or being found not guilty.
I liked the author's quote about juries not weighing evidence, but judging character (which may have happened here - and definitely in the Azaria Chamberlain case).
Several years ago a 37 year old father of three drove his 3 small boys , suddenly, into a deep farm- pond in rural Australia. He survived. They didn't. He was separated from the children's mother, and distressed by this. He was tried for murder, and was eventually sentenced to many years in prison. Garner asks us to consider what happened, and why things happened as they did. As a participant-observer, \she followed the meandering trial through the judicial system, which at the same time tried to be fair and was intensely competitive. A masterful, empathic, and very distressing book.
Top reviews from other countries
Recently separated from his wife, Cindy, his behaviour immediately after the incident is bizarre. Rather than trying to rescue his sons, he insists on being driven by passers by to his ex-wife's home where he breaks down and explains that the boys are all dead.
Helen Garner gives a gripping account of subsequent events ; how Cindy fully supports her ex husband through what he displays as grief verging on madness : the complex and lengthy trial :
the disbelief of the police that it was an accident and their attempts to discredit Farquharson's account of the drownings, and a brilliant study of all characters involved in the case.
I was engrossed from the first couple of pages and remained so throughout. This is a fascinating though heart-breaking business brought clearly to life by the author. I'm sure that anyone interested in human nature will appreciate this excellent true story, albeit with a heavy heart.