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This House of Grief: The Story of a Murder Trial Paperback – March 29, 2016
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'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
'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
About the Author
Her first novel, Monkey Grip, came out in 1977, 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. 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, published in 2004, was a non-fiction study of two murder trials in Canberra.
In 2006 Helen Garner received the inaugural Melbourne Prize for Literature. Her novel, The Spare Room, published in 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.
This House of Grief, was named Best True Crime book in the 2015 Ned Kelly Awards, and is a 2015 Foreword Reviews IndieFab finalist.
In 2016 Helen Garner was awarded the prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize, for her non-fiction work.
Helen Garner lives in Melbourne.
- Publisher : Text Publishing Company; Second edition (March 29, 2016)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1925240681
- ISBN-13 : 978-1925240689
- Item Weight : 9 ounces
- Dimensions : 5 x 0.9 x 7.7 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,187,570 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- 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.