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.
‘Helen Garner is an invaluable guide into harrowing territory and offers powerful and unforgettable insights. This House of Grief, in its restraint and control, bears comparison with In Cold Blood.’ Kate Atkinson
‘Helen Garner’s This House of Grief 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
‘In This House of Grief, Helen Garner describes with wonderful subtlety and honesty the trail of a man accused of drowning his three sons; she is fascinated by what we’re capable of and how fiercely we hide it from ourselves.’ Helen Simpson, Books of the Year, Times Literary Supplement
‘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 humour. 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
‘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
‘This House of Grief is a magnificent book about the majesty of the law and the terrible matter of the human heart. It has its centre 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 spectres and enigmas of guilt.’ Peter Craven, Weekend Australian
‘It is as involving, heart-rending and unsettling a read as you could possibly find.‘ Sunday Times
‘Helen Garner’s account of the trial is a non-literary variation of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. It is all the more shocking for her direct, no-nonsense, often horrified, approach.’ Eileen Battersby, Books of the Year, Irish Times
‘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 mind—its 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 sad—but so compelling that they won’t put it down for long.’ NZ 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.’ Jennifer Byrne, Australian Women's Weekly
‘[Garner] doesn’t merely listen. She watches, imagines, second-guesses, empathises, agonises. Her voice—intimate yet sharp, wry yet urgent—inspires trust.’ Atlantic