Jennifer (JC-S)'s Reviews > The Feel Of Steel

The Feel Of Steel by Helen Garner
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Jun 27, 12

bookshelves: librarybooks, reading-group
Read from June 18 to 24, 2012

‘Everything around me is seething with meaning, if I can only work out what it is.’

In this collection of 31 non-fiction writings, Helen Garner combines observation and musing about various aspects of life in a way invites readers to experience that which is mystical and powerful in occurrences which are sometimes mundane, and sometimes not. The appeal is broad: a casual reader will find pleasure and a more serious reader will find plenty to think about.

The ‘Feel of Steel’ poses a number of questions, including: what is the meaning of ‘home’ and how far do we have to travel in order to find it? How do different family members deal with the impact and consequences of Alzheimer’s disease? Or divorce? Or the birth of a grandchild? From a trip to Antarctica (‘Regions of Thick-Ribbed Ice’), through a visit to the Spa Resort on Koh Sumui in the Gulf of Thailand (‘A Spy in the House of Excrement’) to a bridal salon (‘Arrayed for the Bridal’) via the ego-denting experience of selecting new glasses (‘My Blue Glasses’) and musing on the perfect sandals (‘Golden Sandals’) these writings contain a series of reflections on life, personal anecdotes, and encompass a range of human emotions.

One of my favourites is ‘Woman in a Green Mantle’. I can identify completely with this thought:
‘Press the memory of a book, and it goes blurry.’ And with this statement:
‘I read much too fast. It’s an insane, desperate guzzling.’

While I enjoy Ms Garner’s writing, it’s her non-fiction books (‘The First Stone’ and ‘Joe Cinque’s Consolation’) that have stayed with me the longest. This collection of short pieces invites the reader to laugh sometimes, and to think about what is important and why.

Most of these pieces were originally published in other Australian publications: the Age; Best Australian Essays; the Bulletin; Good Weekend; Heat; House and Garden; and the Women’s Weekly.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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