'Anyone can see the place where the children died. You take the Princes Highway past Geelong, and keep going west in the direction of Colac. Late in August 2006, soon after I had watched a magistrate commit Robert Farquharson to stand trial before a jury on three charges of murder, I headed out that way on a Sunday morning, across the great volcanic plain.
'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.' (Publication summary)
To the Victorian Supreme Court:
'this treasury of pain, this house of power and grief'
–Dezso Kosztolanyi : Kornel Esti
'Helen Garner’s literary non-fiction book This House of Grief (2014), as well as her two essays ‘Why She Broke’ (2017) and ‘Killing Daniel’ (1993), all deal with instances of filicide. This article begins by offering a reading of these writings in which I argue that they perpetuate a mythologisation of family violence which prevents us from viewing that violence as an ameliorable social injustice. I look at Rita Felski’s injunction to engage more deeply with what she calls ‘ordinary readers'’ uses of literature as a way to question the relevance of the kind of critique put forth in the first section; ultimately, I find that the context of Garner’s popular reception actually vindicates a critical focus on the political import of the writing.' (Publication abstract)
'The story of three little boys who drowned in a dam on Father’s Day in 2005 is sad and shocking. After two long trials, Robert Farquharson was found guilty of the murders of his three sons and imprisoned for 33 years. This paper will examine works by two authors who tell this same story, each in a different way and from different perspectives. Helen Garner and Megan Norris both explore this tragic true crime by presenting two quite different grief narratives. Both are courtroom narratives that simultaneously question and explain the court system, but their respective examinations of grief, despair and fractured lives have resulted in two very different approaches. The article examines the narrative choices made by each author. It suggests that writers of such narratives bear a heavy responsibility towards the characters they portray as well as towards their readers, many of whom are not familiar with court processes and the criminal justice system.' (Publication abstract)
'Working in the archives of living writers provides exciting possibilities for extended interpersonal research as well as ethical challenges. This article explores the author’s experience of working in Helen Garner’s restricted archives and negotiating the demands of scholarly objectivity with an increasingly felt empathic engagement. The author traces a chronological path through the archives relating to Garner’s three substantial works of non-fiction: The First Stone (1995), Joe Cinque’s Consolation (2004) and This House of Grief (2014). She draws attention to some of the ways in which distance and objectivity can be influenced not only by contact with a living writer but also by the space in which the archive is encountered. With a deliberate focus on the lived experience of researching, rather than a scholarly examination of archival theory, the author offers a case study of how the interaction of archives and living subject can shape research and publication.' (Publication abstract)