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The First Stone

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  519 ratings  ·  37 reviews
In the autumn of 1992, two young women students at Melbourne University went to the police claiming that they had been indecently assaulted at a party. The man they accused was the head of their co-ed residential college. The shock of these charges split the community and painfully focused the debate about sex and power.



'This is writing of great boldness and it will wring

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Kindle Edition, 222 pages
Published (first published April 1st 1995)
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(showing 1-30 of 799)
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Nicholas Cavenagh
Helen Garner has an out-of-control empathetic ego. She feels she has the right to tell the women's story without having interviewed them because "after all, I am a woman". Ultimately non-one around her is allowed any emotional experience outside of her own. She also naively expects all strangers to trust her and is self-righteously angry when they don't. Apart from this, her subjective approach is honest and refreshing. She raises good points about gradation of crime.
John
In 1992, two female students at Ormond College, a residential college at the University of Melbourne, made complaints of sexual harassment against the college Master, Dr Colin Shepherd. One woman claimed that Shepherd had groped her breasts during a dance at a student party; the other that he had made unwelcome sexual comments to her during a conversation in a private room after he had locked the door. After the university’s internal disciplinary board sided with Shepherd, the women hired a barr ...more
David
My first reaction to this book was one of disgust. That was in 1995, but I picked it up again recently and decided to give the book another chance. I read the title, the epigraphs, the first chapter. I was still disgusted. I’ve now finished the book, and the disgust stays with me still.

As a work of feminism, this could have been spun from the ‘naive’ questions of the FAQ on Finally, a Feminism 101 Blog.

As a work of journalism, this is a legal and ethical disaster, an example of what not to do on
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Natalie
Reading this book made me so angry - despite HG's insistence that she wanted to cover both sides, it comes across as a self-entitled attack of the two women (probably due to the fact that they weren't jumping at the chance to be interviewed). Additionally I was appalled at the casual attitude taken on sexual harassment, the petty stereotyping of feminists and her naive support for the accused.

I don't think anyone will ever truly know what happened that night - what is clear is that the situation
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Jodi
In my opinion Helen looked down on the girls and came across as anti feminist because a strong empowered woman does not behave like a tart and then complain about the consequences which appear to be minor in this circumstance. This kind of behaviour gives women a bad name. I am many things but i am not a feminist, give me an apron and a family to care for, I find that more fulfilling than a thankless career and no legacy. There is a photo circulating the web with proud, well dressed women in the ...more
Deborah Ideiosepius
While not a very enjoyable topic I did find this a very good book.

For some years I had been aware of just how far society had tilted in Melbourne from favouring males to favouring females when it came to sexual misconduct accusations. I think it is great that there are places in Australia that are trying hard to empower women by taking rape seriously however, In the time I lived in that city though I was personally acquainted with more than one case of a woman using the laws as a weapon against
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Todd
I knew this book had a long controversial history, and I came into it knowing that my individual biases would take hold.

At the time of these incidents, my father was running a boarding house at a prestigious private school in Adelaide. Though he dealt with kids rather than young adults, in my mind's eye I kept substituting him for the Master, and wondering what Dad would have done, even though I know he would have been (perhaps rightly?) far more circumspect, than Colin Shepperd, the College Mas
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Nicolletta
Reading this piece of creative non-fiction was like having a conversation with a friend you don't always agree with, and don't particularly like all that much. This book skims the surface of many issues, yet explores nothing. At the centre is a sexual harassment case at a Melbourne University. She speaks a couple of times to the accused, and never speaks to the complainants or their supporters. Out of this she still manages to create something readable, by talking of related issues of feminism a ...more
pinknantucket
Well. I've been thinking about this book for days. This is Garner's highly personal account of the sexual harassment case that put Melbourne University's Ormond College in the news in the early 90s. I know Garner's book has provoked all sorts of reactions; for my part I found her views as a 'first-wave' feminist very interesting, particularly as I'm of the generation of the women who brought for the complaint. (Garner isn't actually first wave come to think of it, that would be all those women w ...more
Kylie Matthews


I've just re-read this 15 years later... And funnily enough, I actually agree with Helen Garner far more now than after that first reading. While her feminist approach is of an earlier generation and purely reformist, it does appear to invite a more common sense approach to the fraught issue of sexual harassment. I would be fascinated to read a follow up on this book and be privy to how things have changed at the university and in society as a whole since its publication in the mid-90s. Would t
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Michelle
There's something banal and everyday about Helen Garner's books, but at the same time they are completely thrilling. I read Monkey Grip and The First Stone last week and was completely drawn in, immersed in her world, unable to stop reading until I finished. She is unflinchingly honest. She leaves no unsavoury character flaws out, so her books are like looking through a keyhole into an unsanitised account of somebody else's life.

The First Stone is probably the least satisfying of her books I've
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Maha Abed
An engrossing read. Helen Garner's response to a sexual harassment claim made in Ormond college in the early nineties. A balanced and well-considered account of the events surrounding the claim and statements from the people involved and those who were willing to speak with Helen Garner.

The reader unavoidably considers the definition of feminism and the reactions to asserting a woman's rights in all aspects of Australian society. It is an area with so many shades of grey and filled with controv
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Daniel Taylor
Feb 26, 2012 Daniel Taylor rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Feminists, students, university staff
When I picked this book up in 1995, I was looking for creative nonfiction masters to inspire my writing. Helen Garner definitely fits into that category.

It's been so long since I read the book that I'm lucky to remember anything about it at all. What I do recall is that it had to with some girls accusing one of the staff at a hall of residence at Melbourne University of sexual harassment. Apparently, however, there were a lot of underlying issues that made the accusation questionable.

With her ly
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Julie-ann James
I was really looking forward to this book. It wasn't what I expected however I did enjoy it. It was very impartial on a topic that is very contentious and could have been very one sided. I finished feeling the whole situation could have easily been avoided by more honesty from the parties and less outside involvement.
Melissa Van
Read this book for book club last year and never had we had such deep discussions about subject matter as then. Garner's book is highly readable although not necessarily enjoyable. Interesting, intriguing, challenging, maddening - absolutely. While other reviewers have attacked HG for her stance, I can certainly understand why she came to the conclusions she did and have to admit to agreeing with her.
This book is certainly thought provoking and anybody who reads it will certainly have an opinion
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Librariasaurus
This book made me hate Helen Garner. Written about a terrible act of abuse by a man of power, this book is written by someone who claims to be an old school feminist, but she takes the exact opposite position, instead siding with the abuser and constantly berating the female victims who chose to complain to police about sexual harassment rather than keep quite about it 'like she had to do back in her day'
Pathetic, should never have been published, do not read it. This is the first book I have ev
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Donnawaters
I read this a few years ago after hearing furious debate over this book. I loved it. It wasn't an easy or comfortable read but I felt that Helen Garner raised some very legitimate questions and a debate should be had about such things. I didn't find her anti-feminist in any way and it was liberating as a strong minded woman to thing about things such as responsibility, power and the best way to handle things. No easy answers to difficult questions though. She is not only a fiercely intelligent w ...more
Sally Dean
Never wanted to read this as I knew some people who were caught up in it. One who was there on the night, another a member of the Council. But I found it fascinating. HG does really seem to seek and question, while admitting certain "failings" or insecurities of her own. It says on the cover "some questions about sex and power " and this is correct. It is the answers that would help enlighten but these are much harder to find.
Deb Waterhouse-watson
A regrettale apologist work. The premise underlining this book seems to be that (young) women have no right to complain about being sexually harassed, and that it would be perfectly reasonable for a male professor to dance closely with a female student, and possibly even touch her breasts, unless she had specifically asked him not to beforehand. Enough said.
Louisa
This was an incredibly thought provoking read which challenged my own thoughts, beliefs, attitudes etc to male-female power relationships and issues of sexual harrassment. I think Helen Garner did an excellent job of going deeper than feminist rhetoric and bringing the issues back to the very complicated nature of human relationships.
notgettingenough
I just don't know....The trouble with that early 'feminists' is that they often seem quite sexist later. Mind you. The trouble with the later ones is that they seem quite sexist sooner. I don't know...

But she does now how to tell a good story, even if it isn't necessarily the right one.
Nell Fraser
Helen Garner's voice is refined yet natural. Like her fiction, it keeps the reader wanting more. The First Stone unfolds in such a way, and with such skill, that the issue at the core of the books is not the university event itself but questions surrounding sex and power.
Michael Burge
Garner writes the perfect piece about living within paradox with this book, using an approach which most bloggers now take for granted, twenty years on, but in its day must have been shouted down as too personal and irrelevant. One of my favourite writers.
Sue
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lynley
This book gave me something to think about after every chapter. I had to take frequent breaks to digest what I read. In a book about sexual harassment, I can't really ask any more than that.
Jacqui Lafrance
This Australian author documents the context around a court case between a college administrator and female students involving harassment. An interesting local take on a timeless offense.
Alison Petchell
Raw, honest, troubling, uncomfortable and confronting account of one man's life unravelling, two women's paths unfolding and the author's beliefs challenged
Emma Conlan
Interesting .....not completely sold but it shows an interesting struggle with the authors feminist stance.
Pam
Okay ... sometimes lm a little nervous about HG and her messages..but l do like to read her ...
Felicity
Jan 25, 2010 Felicity rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Felicity by: School text.
Studied it in school. Used to love Helen Garner's books. Very thought provoking.
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Helen Garner was born in Geelong in 1942. She has published many works of fiction including Monkey Grip, Cosmo Cosmolino and The Children's Bach. Her fiction has won numerous awards. She is also one of Australia's most respected non-fiction writers, and received a Walkley Award for journalism in 1993.

Her most recent books are The First Stone, True Stories, My Hard Heart, The Feel of Stone and Joe
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More about Helen Garner...
The Spare Room Joe Cinque's Consolation, A True Story of Death, Grief and the Law Monkey Grip This House of Grief The Children's Bach

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