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Postcards from Surfers

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  453 ratings  ·  34 reviews
From one of Australia's most celebrated writers comes eleven stories about the complexities of life and love; of looking back and longing; of what it means to be a stranger, on foreign ground and known, told with the piercing familiarity and resonance we have come to expect from Helen Garner. Remarkably honest, often very funny and always woven in ways that surprise, these ...more
Paperback, 106 pages
Published October 7th 1986 by Penguin Books Australia (first published January 6th 1981)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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Helen Hagemann
Apr 11, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
Review by Helen Hagemann
Postcards from Surfers
William Faulkner wrote, ‘With me, a story usually begins with a single idea or memory or mental picture. The writing is simply a matter of working up to that moment, to explain why it happened or what it caused to follow.’

This is a quote equally applied to Helen Garner. She doesn’t bog the reader down with “too much information.” There is always one central idea or single theme running through her short stories. This collection of 11 stories was pub
Hannah Louey
Jul 06, 2014 rated it liked it
As we’ve already established that Helen Garner is basically my homegirl, or to quote Anne of Green Gables, we’re ‘kindred spirits’ (based on the one and only occasion where I have actually conversed with her). So, while I’m not a big fan of short stories, I thought I’d give her collection of short stories, titled Postcards from Surfers, a go.

Some shorter than other, some without a narrative, some without even a character’s name, all of the stories from Postcards from Surfers deal with longing, l
Mar 20, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am not sure why I picked this one up from the library, I mean, it is a collection of short stories! I do not enjoy short stories! Well, unless it is Margaret Atwood, and most of Haruki Murakami (exceptions are needed to prove a rule, after all). Obviously someone else had stepped into the driving seat of my brain on this particular day, and home with me this book did come.
Now, what I am not wanting you to tell people is – I liked it. Shhhh! It’s short stories, this does not happen. But I knew
Christopher Boerdam
I couldn't say what these short stories were about, but who cares, Garner's style effects goose-pimples. Her prose is so sparse, and so deceptively simple - so easy to read - and then, out of nowhere, she throws in a line that floors you: For instance: 'All night I sleep in my bed, The waves roar and hiss, and slam like doors'; and '. . . we put down our glasses, we turned away, we turned to go back to the other place, we turned and went back to the other place, we went without bitterness, humbl ...more
Jan 01, 2019 rated it liked it
I find with short stories you get more of a sense of context, as in Raymond Carver and Lucia Berlin have strong Amercian prose, the Australian-ness of Helen Garner's writing lifts off the page. There's a great piece in Postcards from Surfers which is essentially a non-stop monologue of a bloke in a pub who has just seen a mate they haven't seen in five or so years. We've all had these conversations, where everything must be discussed in an ever-fleeting time frame. There's another great one in t ...more
Rich Gamble
Jul 09, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A sometimes interesting, often uninspiring and particularly brief collection of short fiction. One or two of the stories were ok but mostly it was just fluff. For good Australian short fiction from the 80s read 'The Bodysurfers' by Robert Drewe instead.
Feb 01, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
First Helen Garner I've read - short stories, kind of interesting but didn't really grab me.
Geena Pelka
Jul 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Everytime I read something of Garner's it feels like slipping into a warm bath - except when she's writing about murder. Those stories are still gripping and observant, but less warm bath. Postcards from Surfers was definitely warm bath though. Even if you hated every short story bar one, it would be completely worth it for The Life of Art.
"My friend cut lemons into chunks and dropped them into the water jug when there was no money for wine"
"'When happiness comes,' said my friend, 'it's s
Kevin Tole
I was really thinking in two minds about this book. So I read it twice. What I wanted to read was Monkey Grip, her first novel, but every edition and second hand copy (when I could find them) were all too expensive. This came secondhand as well and has the great merit of including the novella The Children's Bach.


There was a time when half of white Australia under the age of 35 appeared to be living either in Earls Court or in camper vans on the Southbank. Those people populate these short stori
Feb 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
One of the great joys in a book of short stories, is being able to pick it off the shelf and read just one brief tale to transform your perspective. Helen Garner’s Postcards from Surfers, as the title might suggest, does just that. But it doesn’t just take you out of your own little view of the world. It can also take you deeply into your world, and touch something in you invisible before, but awakened now.

The tale which really made me feel this was “Civilisation and Its Discontents”. In fourtee
Jan 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Picked this up because I loved Monkey Grip. Stories by themselves are so-so, but together they form an interesting catalogue of relationships which are dynamic and malleable. It gives an insight into how we treat each other, what we expect from each other and what happens when the two don't correspond.

Didn't like it so much because I think the repetitiveness of Monkey Grip was what made it so powerful - the repeated occurrences of life, the habits which the reader grew to understand, were what
Peter Langston
A collection of short stories - postcards indeed - reflective of Australian life. I found the quality inconsistent. None were better than the title story which appears first in the collection. The writing is direct and often confrontational, no doubt in an effort to convey its contemporary nature. Perhaps I expected a thread connecting the stories or perhaps I missed it but I found this best suited as a doctor's surgery book, where one grabs a short piece whilst waiting. Don't get me wrong: some ...more
Dec 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
There were a few well-crafted and beautiful short stories in here, but the majority were a bit of a hit and miss, trying hard to be clever and interesting but unfortunately falling short. I also found that some (well, most) of the stories had graphic and controversial parts in them, but felt out of place.

The eponymous "Postcards from Surfers" story is wonderful, and something that really hit close to home. But other stories, like "Civilisation and its Discontents" didn't really do it for me.
Sep 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a 1986 collection of short stories and proof that Helen Garner has been brilliant forever. No one on this earth can describe human relationships like this woman can. She's the best. She could write the ingredients on a mayonnaise jar and I'd be enthralled.
May 01, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easy to read. Some stories were good; other weren't.

I'll probably read another book by her, preferably a novel. I'd like to see something with more continuity where the characters can develop beyond the glimpses in these stories.
Shaun Keating
Sep 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Impressive writing that is only hampered by the seemingly spontaneous stories. Each explores a moment in time in a life, but empathy and connection is not able to be fully realised with each of the characters and their story.
It is a nice look-through-a-keyhole compilation of short stories.
Mar 04, 2010 added it
Had to read and write a literature essay on "Little Helen's Sunday Afternoon".
Brenna Heagney
I didn't love this which is sad because I love Helen!
Jan 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Every story is both distinctly Garner and distinctly unique. Helen Garner highlights the beauty in the mundane; she transforms the everyday into something to envy.
May 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Pretty solid collection of stories. Nice reading material for a train trip.
Gorgeous, gorgeous, and heartbreaking.
Jul 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: aus
A couple of really great stories, 'In Paris' jumps to mind - overall thought Garner seems to be experimenting - in character, styles of narration, structure - beyond her means.
Antonia Jackson
Nov 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Great recollections of the 80's experience of young, artistic people mainly Queensland, Melbourne and the Europe stint. No one really grows up. Easy to read and interesting short stories.
Jake Goretzki
Jul 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Decent collection - domestic, mid-life and always with a little menace below the surface. I particularly liked 'All Those Bloody Young Catholics' - superb piece of larrikin sexpest monologue.
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intriguing collection of short stories, with a couple of real gems in there.
Carolyne Lee
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I re-read this after about 25 years. Garner is one of Australia's best writers in my view.
Mar 21, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am not sure why I picked this one up from the library, I mean, it is a collection of short stories! I do not enjoy short stories! Well, unless it is Margaret Atwood, and most of Haruki Murakami (exceptions are needed to prove a rule, after all). Obviously someone else had stepped into the driving seat of my brain on this particular day, and home with me this book did come.
Now, what I am not wanting you to tell people is – I liked it. Shhhh! It’s short stories, this does not happen. But I knew
Scott Robinson
Feb 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
She writes about Australia with a separation or self-awareness. She says “Australian” or “Melbourne”
She calls certain qualities out in a way I only hear from people who traveled. A fish doesn’t notice water, and whatnot.

The Life of Art alone was worth the entry price.
Short stories are always hit and miss with me. This one was a miss
Ethna Brave
Mar 21, 2020 rated it liked it
I do love a good short story and Helen Garner is a wonderful storyteller, capturing the everyday and ordinarily lives so completely.
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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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