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This House of Grief

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  4,309 ratings  ·  431 reviews
This account of the competing narratives unfolding in the courtroom during a murder trial has attracted international acclaim. First published in April 2015 it is now released in a handsome B format edition.

Helen Garner is the author of numerous books of fiction and non-fiction. Her most recent novel The Spare Room was published to critical acclaim in 2010.
Paperback, 300 pages
Published August 2014 by Text publishing
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4.06  · 
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 ·  4,309 ratings  ·  431 reviews

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There is nothing like sinking your teeth into a true crime. Is there.
But in this case, I honestly wish I were reading a crime of fiction then a real one, because the reality of the events, leading up and surrounding the death’s of three brave little boys is seriously beyond belief and outright distressing. And the memory is still fresh in the minds of Australians, and in particular Victorians who live and drive nearby the dam, trying get their head around this harrowing crime, wondering why and
Diane S ☔
Jan 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
I am not a big true crime reader but this one has been getting some good reviews. As with anything concerning the deaths of young children, this one was heartbreaking. Would a father, just to get back at his ex-wife, actually stage an accident to murder his children?

Rating a book such as this one is hard. What am I rating, the quality of the case? Doesn't seem right somehow. The only thing I can say is that this was clearly written, easy to understand the trial and the evidence. It was presented
‘This House of Grief’ by Helen Garner is a truly sorrowful book, as one might imagine from the title. In 2005, on Father’s Day, in Winchelsea, Australia, Robert Farquharson drove off the road into a dam. He was able to exit the car safely, but his three young sons drown. Separated from his wife, Cindy Gambino, Farquharson had the children for the day, and was on the way to returning them to their mother. Purportedly suffering a syncopal episode caused by a coughing fit, Farquharson lost consciou ...more
Dec 22, 2014 rated it really liked it

In 2005 an event occurred that horrified all Australians. Robert Farquharson, estranged from his wife, was returning his three young sons, Jai, Tyler and Bailey, to their mother after an access visit on Father’s Day when his car swerved off the road, through a fence and across a paddock plunging his car into a seven metre deep dam. While he managed to escape and swim to safety his three children drowned. He claimed to have blacked out after a coughing fit and came to as the car was filling with
 Li'l Owl ~ Incorrigible Reader
Disturbing! Truth is often stranger than fiction!

Once there was a hard-working bloke who lived in a small Victorian Country Town with his wife and their three young son's. One day out of the blue, his wife told him that she no longer was in love with him. She did not want to go on with the marriage. She asked him to move out. The kids would live with her, she said, and he could see them whenever he liked. The sad husband picked up his pillow and went to live with his widowed father, several stre
Eliza Genang
Aug 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Fuckyeah this book.
My jury experience years ago got rid of any misty-eyed romanticism about the democracy of the jury or court system, it is clear that this system of ours is a highly imperfect compromise. This book is about the courts. And it is so well done. Neither schmaltzy nor hard-nosed. Intelligent, honest and important. I want to hear about these things in long form. I want diverse observers in the courts, bearing witness, telling the story. This is a good use of a writer's time and ene
☼♄Jülie 
This House of Grief by Helen Garner

This story reads like a work of fiction, makes me reflect on the absolute fragility of the human condition, and how, regardless of our culpability, things can radically change, in the blink of an eye...for better or for worse.
I find it quite disconcerting, to even for a moment, entertain the notion that in a flash moment of time, life can so drastically alter its direction, as to utterly and irrevocably change its course...and how, still regardl
Apr 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Reading about the death of children is never pleasant but to think of the death by drowning of these three young boys at the hand of their father is truly tragic and was a very devastating read. Helen Garner has once again captured the court room drama and described it so vividly and with an intensity that makes you feel you are right there in the court room experiencing the events as they unfold. This was such a tragic event with no one walking away unscathed. It affected everyone in Winchelsea ...more
Dec 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an incredibly moving and well written account of a murder trial, which I found utterly gripping. On a September evening in 2005, Robert Farquaharson was driving his three sons – Jai, Tyler and Bailey – back home to his estranged wife. His wife, Cindy, had admitted that she no longer loved him and that she wanted him to move out. Later, she had begun a relationship with another man, but Robert seemed unable to move on. Although Cindy was eager that he should be involved with his sons, he ...more
Britta Böhler
Helen Garner's non fiction book tells the story of a real-life murder trial in Australia: a father accused of deliberately driving his car off a dam and killing his three young sons. The father on the other hands claims that it was an accident, that he passed out behind the wheel and lost control over the car.
Garner sits through the court-trial as a spectator and she gives a detailed account of all the witness statements & expert hearings. And although this was interesting to read I thought
Aug 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Three stars is probably a tad unfair, because my disappointment is mainly due to poor expectation management. I've been waiting for this book for years, was bummed when I heard sh'd given up on writing it and literally fist pumped the air when an email came in saying it was about to be published. I LOVED Joe Cinque's Consolation, the first Garner I read a few years ago after seeing her at Darwin Writer's Festival, and couldn't wait to see how she would cover the Farquharson case.
Garner has been
Penni Russon
Sep 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Sometime in the mid 90s, when I was around 20, there was an accident in Hobart. A woman was driving her mother and her two small children in Hobart. She had an epileptic fit at the wheel and drove into the docks. Two young men, around my age, dived into the greasy water after them.

The story was that, when they reached the car, the two women in the front seats of the sinking car urged them to save the children. The young men managed to get the kids out and swim them to safety, the car sank and th
Ashley Hay
Jul 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I used to joke that I would happily read Helen Garner's shopping lists – recently someone asked me where they'd been published, which makes me think I'm not the only person who relishes her words so much. One of the finest essays I've read about why Garner matters as a writer is Tegan Bennett Daylight's "Phone Call to Helen Garner", which was originally published in The Australian (you can read it here: – I love her description of reading "every word tha ...more
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, good-true-crime
Are you going to the Farquharson hearing? I’ve got two reactions to this. He can’t possibly have done it. But there’s no other explanation

On 4th September 2005 Robert Farquharson was driving himself and his three children along the Princes Highway in Victoria , Australia when he lost control of the vehicle, crashed into a farm dam where his car became submerged. The three children were unable to escape and sadly died but Robert escaped unscathed.

Even if you have no prior knowledge of this case
Dec 30, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I picked up this book because it was on several best of the year lists. I am not sure why. I think the material could have been fascinating, and the back and forth between facts, wishes and speculation could have made for an interesting read. However, I felt that Garner had made her judgment early in the case. She was willing, hoping, to be swayed, but seemed to fit the evidence and her appraisal of it to her conclusion. For me, this then became a sympathetic reporting of two tragic trials, when ...more
Jill Mccann
Aug 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Occasionally this is almost unbearable to read - the intense and careful following of the Robert Farquarson case. But Garner is always a compassionate and thoughtful observer, and I finished the book grateful for her care in witnessing and reporting this most tragic of stories.
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A heartbreaking story penned by one of Australia's premier journalists.
Oct 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was on a jury once. The weight of the experience stays with me. After the first day of the trial, I felt overwhelmed by the responsibility of the role, and even though I slowly came to terms with it and felt ultimately comfortable in making a decision, it was a powerful experience. The trail only lasted 4 days; I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the jurors who sat in judgement in the Robert Farquharson trials. David Marr sums up Garner’s achievement in this way: “We are not let of ...more
Jun 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
A few years ago I read a novel by Helen Garner that was so vivid and so real that I had to remind myself that it wasn’t real, it was fiction. I picked this book up on the strength of her name. It’s a work of non fiction, telling the story of a tragedy and the court cases that ensued, and it is so very well written and ‘plotted’ that I could have quite easily believed that I was reading a very fine work of fiction

On a spring evening in 2005, a car veered across the Princes Highway in Victoria, Au
Karen Bartlett
Sep 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have had a morbid fascination with this story since the tragic events took place, probably because it all happened just down the road in Winchelsea, at a dam on a stretch of road that I must have driven past hundreds of times in my life, travelling to and from my hometown of Warrnambool to the place I have lived for the past 30 or so years, Geelong. It also struck a chord with me at the time because of Robert Farquarson's claim that he had a coughing fit and passed out while driving, and ended ...more
Aug 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
One spring evening in 2005, a car veered across the Princes Highway in rural Victoria, Australia, crashed through a fence and plunged into a farm dam. The male driver escaped; all three passengers — aged 10, 7 and 2 — were unable to get out and drowned.

Was it an accident, or did Robert Farquharson deliberately drive the vehicle into the dam in order to kill his three young sons, whom he was returning to their mother after an access visit on Father’s Day?

The police thought the latter. They charge
Nick Davies
Sep 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017
My main problem with this book was that it took an interesting news story - that of an Australian man who drove his car into a reservoir killing his three sons inside, and the trial(s) which followed - and rendered it an unreadably long and convoluted read. Had it been a much shorter book dealing only with the facts relating to the crime and subsequent legal proceedings, this would've been a lot better. As it was, Garner's excessive focus on the minutiae of how every person in the courtroom look ...more
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Michael Robotham
Mar 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Chilling and beautifully told. This is a worthy winner of the Ned Kelly Award for best True Crime in Australia
Bree T
Oct 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
On Father’s Day in 2005, Robert Farquharson was returning his three sons Jai, Tyler and Bailey to his estranged wife Cindy in Winchelsea in Victoria’s south-west. On the way, the car veered off the road, through a fence into a paddock and then into a dam that dropped straight down to a 7m depth. Although Farquharson managed to free himself and make it out of the dam, the three boys drowned.

The shocking case divided people. How on Earth could it possibly be deliberate? people wondered. That someo
Kate (Lillytales)
Jul 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
This House of Grief is Helen Garner’s account of the court case for Robert Farquharson; a father who, on Father’s Day of 2005, drove his car and his three young sons into a dam. Only Robert survived. This is the story of what lead up to that day, the relationship between the boys’ mother and father, and, ultimately, an agonising quest for justice.

The story of this court case is told as if you, the reader, as in the court room sitting next to Helen Garner. You come to know the prosecutor and the
Sep 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
You might need an Aussie dictionary to read this book, but you should still read it. (You also need to keep in mind that drivers are on the "wrong" side of the road.}

On Father's Day, Rob Farquharson drove/lost control of his car which careered off the road into a farm pond and resulted in the death of his three children and his escape. Eventually he was put on trial for the murder of the three boys.

Garner is a "true crime" writer in this book but very different from the American take on that gen
Liz Barnsley
Jan 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
I’m trying to read more non fiction at the moment and this book from Helen Garner looked intriguing and it absolutely was. Very compelling, an utterly fascinating look at a trial and the justice system in Australia, an engaging and interesting read throughout.

The case itself is a highly emotional one and it is easy to see how Helen got caught up in it – three young children lost their lives and it is very possible that their Father, someone who is supposed to love, nurture and protect them, in f
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
3 1/2 stars. This book provides an extraordinary insight into the workings of the Australian legal system, the people that work within it and those directly affected by serious crime. I listened to this as an audio book and it was brilliantly read in voice that could well, in my mind now, be Garner’s. Garner’s eye for detail and turn of phrase makes this a compelling read but as it does have so much information you really need to be invested in the journey. This would have been a harrowing case ...more
Jun 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely loved this book and read it in a couple of days. The true life details which Garner picks out so skillfully are far more interesting than any crime fiction. Maybe it's because I'm a law nerd, but I found her account of this case completely gripping.
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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
“judges are men who in the cool of the evening undo work that better men do in the heat of the day.” 3 likes
“It was the sad privilege of blood relations to love him despite all.” 2 likes
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