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This House of Grief

This House of Grief 3

The Story of a Murder Trial

by Helen Garner
Publication Date: 20/08/2014
2/5 Rating 3 Reviews
RRP  $23.99 $20.50

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.

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Helen Garner

Helen Garner (born 7 November 1942) is an Australian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist.

Garner's first novel, Monkey Grip, was published in 1977, and immediately established her as an original voice on the Australian literary scene. She is known for incorporating and adapting her personal experiences in her fiction, something that has brought her both praise and criticism, particularly with her novels, Monkey Grip and The Spare Room.

Throughout her career, Garner has written both fiction and non-fiction. She attracted controversy with her book The First Stone about a sexual harassment scandal in a university college. She has also written for film and theatre, and has consistently won awards for her work.

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Customer Reviews

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  • A brilliant read.

    by on

    “The central fact of the matter would not let us rest. It tore at our hearts that inside the plunging car, while their father fled, three little boys had fought with their restraints, breathed filthy water, choked, thrashed and died.”

    This House of Grief is the fourth non-fiction book by award-winning Australian author and journalist, Helen Garner. Few Australians would be unaware of the polarising court cases that convicted Robert Farquharson of the murder of his three young sons. As an interested observer with an open mind, Garner attended the trial, the appeal and the retrial. Her impartial account is so well told that at times the reader feels present in the courtroom.

    Garner’s portrayal of the main players in this trial attest to her literary skill: the prosecutor “…a lean, contained-looking man, with a clipped grey beard and a mouth that cut across his face on a severe slant, like that of someone who spent his days listening to bullshit”, the defence counsel “…came barging in, with his black gown hanging off one shoulder and his wig pushed back from a shiny forehead. He was big, fair and bluff, Irish-style, with the bulk and presence of a footballer…”

    The judge “a silver-haired man in his sixties with an open, good-humoured face. He wore a scarlet robe, but no wig…he was reassuring to look at, not lofty or threatening; behind his high bench he would lean forward on his elbows and address the court with genial warmth” and the appeal judges “…in scarlet robes with huge white fur cuffs. Their wigs were not the grey, dead-rat ones of the lower court, but foaming and globular, as pale as raw cauliflower, with a texture reminiscent of brain tissue. Their voices rang crisply, and their questions were challenging, pointed, and at times impatient. They gave no quarter. The quality of their listening was ferocious…”

    As well as describing much of the testimony, she describes the reaction of the jury, judge, counsel, witnesses, the accused, family and other observers, to the evidence, and also, often, to the manner in which it was presented. She relates comments and opinions of her erstwhile companions in the courtroom, of journalists, acquaintances in the legal profession and family of the victim. And she shares her own reaction to it all. Yet, even in this sad tale, there are moments of humour. A brilliant read.

  • Heartbreaking

    by on

    On Father's Day in 2005, Robert Farquharson drove his car with his three young sons into a dam near Winchelsea, Victoria. He escaped, they drowned. Did he, as he claimed, blackout from a coughing fit; or was it premeditated murder, an act of retribution for his wife leaving him?

    In this harrowing and moving page-turner, Helen Garner, who watched the case in the courts for over seven years through trial and retrial, paints the human face onto the legal backdrop. Here we have an empathetic story of the people and events behind the trial, and an examination of human nature and its extremities.

  • Horrible true story

    by on

    A new book from Helen Garner is always a treat to read. Author of Joe Cinque’s Consolation, Helen has written a brilliant account of the story of a troubled father and his broken family life. Helen has followed the court trail and has written the story here. Its thoroughly compelling and hugely recommended for all.