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True Stories: Selected Non-Fiction

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  450 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
"Helen Garner writes the best sentences in Australia."—Bulletin

Helen Garner looks at the world with a shrewd and sympathetic eye. Her non-fiction, with its many voices, is always passionate and compelling. True Stories is an extraordinary book, spanning twenty-five years of work, by one of Australia's great writers.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published December 10th 2013 by Text Publishing Company (first published January 1st 1996)
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So many favourites amongst this collection. Personally I connected with the later stories but this collection I think will be enjoyed with great pleasure by anyone who loves the written word
Favourites are
All the stories of life with the authors 4 sisters and one almost invisible brother
Germaine Greer and feminism
On turning 50
The mortuary
The horrendously terrifying tale of a visit to a gun expo, pay particular attention to the expressions on the men's faces
omg. The story of being a court reporter
Maree Kimberley
I've always been a fan of Helen Garner's writing and this collection of non-fiction essays has plenty of gems. Most of the collection was written during the 1980s & 90s and includes her interesting take on high school teaching (naive but somehow right), country living (a little overwritten for me) and a reflection on the reactions to her controversial book, The First Stone. There is an honesty and forthrightness about Garner's writing that gets right to the guts of things. Whether you're an ...more
Cheyenne Blue
I read this very slowly, dipping in and out of each essay. The majority I really enjoyed, a couple I skipped over. Well written, with clear writing that has stood the test of time.

Favourites were the one about turning 50, and one earlier on, when she interviews her sisters.
Ruby Noise
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I like the way Helen Garner writes, she can tell a story that makes you feel like you are there standing alongside her in the tale. Christos Tsiolkos makes me feel the same way, all my senses come alive when I read them both. Must be something in the Melbourne water.

I had read this book years ago and borrowed it again from the library recently and enjoyed it as much as I did the first time around. The stories involve life in all its stages. The tale of the Melbourne Mortuary really hit home thi
Anne Fenn
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Excellent writing on an interesting range of subjects. I loved her sisters piece . Her reflections on the reception of The First Stone are enlightening, makes me mad all over again about how some people missed her point about power, who has it and how it's used. Lots of people supported her view. One or two pieces were too close to the bone for me, birth and death, she goes where I don't want to. Helen Garner is the ultimate crafter of clear, complex, compelling writing. Just an immensely enjoya ...more
Ron Brown
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my fourth Garner book. It wasn’t till I was well into it that I realized that it had been first published some years ago (1996) In 1997 it won the Kibble Literary Award. I had wondered why another selection of short stories had been released so soon after “Everywhere I Look.”
The stories in this anthology were written in the 1980s and early 1990s. I find Garner’s writing personal with just enough style and finesse to stop you occasional and reflect on the image that she has created with
Jeanie Blyth
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved these short non fiction stories which I heard read aloud by the author as an audio book. She tackles subjects not pleasurable to all readers, and for this I appreciate her all the more. I did wonder if I would have been able to actually read some of these stories on the page, but managed to hold to her honest resonant voice enough to bear one story in particle. Listening being, for me, a more receptive way of taking in information, compared to the activity of reading.
Some stories I need
A collection of short stories based on her own life. Everyone has stories. It has me remembering aspects of my own life in vivid detail. She's a master observer and recorder of the human condition.
Some great pieces that evoke modern Australia wonderfully - I particularly liked the account of teaching sex ed to migrant children. Occasionally a little boring. I'd recommend the Audible version that is read by the author herself.

The one inclusion that seemed really out-of-place was Garner's weirdly defensive account of the criticism she received after publishing The First Stone (which I haven't read) - this reads like a grumbly whinge motivated by a bad community reaction to the book. The sa
Aug 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This collection was as impressive as I had expected. There are many powerful pieces here. In some cases the power comes from the subject matter; for example, the utterly heartbreaking 'Killing Daniel', which will stay with me for a very long time. In other cases, the subject matter is mundane on the surface, but Garner's observational skill and the quality of the writing transform what might be dull or conventional in other hands into something significant and moving.

All the pieces in this colle
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aug 21, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
True Stories is an interesting short story collection if only because it shows the evolution of Helen Garner as a writer. As a fan of Garner's later work - the Spare Room, Joe Cinque's consolation, and the breathtaking "This House of Grief" - it is fascinating to see how comparatively clunky and naïve was some Garner's earlier writing. I could barely believe that the acerbic and insightful Garner whose work I love, actually was so naïve as to believe that a sex education class in which she as a ...more
Jennie Diplock-Storer
This was an audiobook, read by Helen Garner herself.

I'm a huge admirer of Garner as a writer & to hear her read her own true short stories was a gift. It brought them vigorously to life as she imparted her spirit, & it's a big spirit, generously into her reading.

I loved these stories. Some very Australian, some very raw, some about her family, some about her quest for self.

Highly recommended.
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With masterly writing and amazing insights into the human condition, both personally and about others, Helen Garner takes us on a series of honest reflections of her work, of court cases, of bumping into people or overhearing their conversations. There's a lovely spareness to her prose which lays bare her meaning but is nevertheless evocative. I loved the "take no prisoners" interactions between her sisters, the way she closed up like a clam when asked for money, and her thoughts on feminism!
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just loved this brilliant collection of non-fiction stories from one of Australia's finest writers, if not the finest in non-fiction writing, ever. Helen Garner's observations on life and what it is to be human are exceptional.
Rose Gowen
The edition I have was published this year or last year and has many more pages than this one. My husband went to Australia and brought it back for me.

I love her.

I read some review here on GR that was like, Helen, we don't care about your life. I scoffed when I read that, but then, somewhere in the middle of the edition I have, I saw what he meant. I don't feel the same way-- I do care about her life-- but some of her writing about it was pretty undercooked.

This is occasional writing, so it's a
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book
Helen Garner has a wonderful turn of phrase. Hearing her read these selected stories by the author herself added enormous validity and a subjective element to the material. I love her honesty & now I'm off to find those early works I haven't read yet.
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This has an amazing array of pieces. It is great hearing them read by the author. As a sister, I loved the piece on sisters and laughed in recognition. The piece on the cottage in the country was evocative. And the article on the murder of Daniel Valerio is rightly sickening.
Jul 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is far from Garner's usual exquisitely simple and brilliant writing but it is an interesting look at the development of a writer and some of the stories offered glimpses at the brilliance that would come in their acerbic observations of life, death and the in between.
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Helen Garner took me to some places I didn't want to go (e.g. to the crematory and the place where they dissect bodies) but I can't complain as it was all well-written and astute as usual.
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love her writing.
Sharon Marchingo
Mar 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As always Garner packs a punch with her incisive words about living life. Even though some of the content is slightly dated, her insights still resonate. Fabulous writer.
Jan 16, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Part one of this book is a waste of time, better off skipping it. We simply don't care about boring tales from your life Helen: take note other authors. If it's not interesting then don't try and have it printed. How is it publishers agree to publish such trivialities that anyone, and I mean ANYONE could write?
The more of Helen I read the more I dislike her. Maybe it has something to do with her feminist undertones. But then I think to myself, don't hate her too much unless I can qualify it by b
I have mixed feelings about this book. There are some great pieces in here, but the downside to this being a collection of work is that it's only good as the sum of its parts. I also had a clear sense that this is the Helen Garner of old, still finding her voice and falling short in doing so at times. Then again, it's kind of nice to see bits of under-development or clunkiness here and there because it gives hope to all writers out there!
Naomi Faye
Apr 06, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, essay, australian
Being a collection of writing spanning her career, I knew 'True Stories' wasn't meant to be Helen Garner's greatest work. Although, I did expect a lot more. It was boring in parts, with slightly racist undertones in others, and I got annoyed by her writing style by the end. There's some great lines worth highlighting though, and I agree with other reviewers, she's the queen of observational writing that's for sure.
Jan 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a compilation of non-fiction stories that written just like a novel. Excellent narratives and descriptions. You'll enjoy reading this book because it has different short-stories. It's about Helen Garner's journey throughout her life. And she makes it very clear that life is full of stories, from sad ending, funny, and inspiring moments - and all you need to do is to enjoy every bit of them.
Apr 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been reading this book in parts because i felt that every story had to be tasted and given some time for digesting. She observes so precisely that you watch what she sees. I loved the recollection of the Daniel murder case,i think she touched all the right chords without distorting the facts. Love her writing style!
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fabulous! I gulped this down too quickly, I should have savoured it more. When I run out of Helen Garner books I'll be really sad.
My favourite pieces from the collection:
"Labour Ward, Penrith"
"The Schoolteacher"
Jul 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Easily some of the best short stories - if they can be classified as so - that I have ever read.
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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
“You'd die of shame at the thought of showing anyone what you'd written. Somebody somewhere says that 'the urge to preserve is the basis of all art'. Unaware of this thought, you keep a diary. You keep it not only because it gratifies your urge to sling words around, everyday with impunity, but because without it, you will lose your life, ts detail will leak away into the sand and be gone forever.” 1 likes
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