The Children's Bach
Athena and Dexter lead an enclosed family life, innocent of fashion and bound towards a disturbed child. Their comfortable rut is disrupted by the arrival of Elizabeth, a tough nut from Dexter's past. With her three charming, chaotic hangers-on, she draws the couple out into a world whose casual egotism they had barely dreamed of. How can they get home again?
What’s good about it? The structure – free, gymnastic, skipping from surface to surface of each character like a stone over water. Also the world: Garner’s Melbourne (to me, like Soseki’s Tokyo) is more sensed than apprehended, and at its most vivid when Garner seems least to be describing it. And it’s short, only 90 pa ...more
It was also aggravatingly distant - Garner never gives you enough to really like or understand any of the characters, but just enough to make you curious. It's literary, self-consciously so, to the detriment of a sense of humanity.
And what's with desolate literary stories about desolate suburban life, anyway? Gah. I can't see that Athena's plot arc (which seemed to be the 'main' one?) had any redemption in it. She came back dr ...more
Right. The characters in this are all depressed suburbanites, dissatisfied with their existence or shocked by others' ways of life.
The characters were all a little bit whingey.
Having said that, Garner's descriptions put me right in there with the characters and the scenery grew around me as I read. But most of the time I just wanted to grab the characters by the shoulders and tell them to get over thems ...more
Novellas and short novels are my favorite literary forms so when I came across a literary critic's review in which he ranks Helen Garner's "The Children's Bach" (1984) among the "four perfect short novels in the English language" I just had to run to the libra ...more
The women in this story are all treated like anthropological exhibits, to be catalogued and obse ...more
In this book, the lives of four grownups and three children intersect in unexpected ways. One side represents morals, ideals, naivety, family, structure; the other: jadedness, hedonism, independence, freedom. Both have valuable lesson ...more
But honed style and fresh, realist detail aside, The Children’s Bach and The Spare Room could hardly be more di ...more
I wanted so much to love this book and while I liked it and found it very readable, I didn't love it. Perhaps this is what happens when you read a writer's latest work first, and then go back to their earlier work. The seeds of The Spare Room were definitely planted, but that 2008 novel is nothing short of an understated masterpiece. This one is well paced, ...more
How I love thee. Let me count the ways.
... but genuinely, I do love Helen Garner.
I love the way she constructs her characters, or, rather, how she doesn't. When I read any of her works, there are so many layers, yet so few details. The characters aren't quite fully-formed, like objects underwater, distorted and secretive.
And Garner will reveal their purpose, slowly, piece by piece, page by page, word by word.
In this particular book, she writes about a mundane, domestic chapter i ...more
London Review of Bo ...more
Like I said, I don’t like Garner, but I have been feeling guilty about not reading enough Australian fiction, ...more
Great use of language by a novelist of great ability. But I felt the book was a bit shallow with it’s plot lines. So what, I thought at then en ...more
- Lovely and atmospheric, somehow refreshing and minimalist despite its rich descriptions
- At the same time it has that pretentious ~literary feel (you know the one)
- Nice to read something set in Melbourne
- For whatever reason it didn't compel me -- different strokes for different folks, etc
- I decided to read this based on some half-remembered extract I fell upon in high school ...more
Her most recent books are The First Stone, True Stories, My Hard Heart, The Feel of Stone and Joe ...more