Louise's Reviews > The Spare Room

The Spare Room by Helen Garner
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's review
Jan 12, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: literature-fiction

“The Spare Room” is a short novel at only 195 pages about a woman named Helen whose old friend, Nicola, is dying from cancer and comes to stay with her for 3 weeks so she can attend an alternative therapy clinic. Helen is excited about her friend coming to stay and does what she can to make sure she feels welcome by readying a room for her, her “spare room” is bestowed with a lovely rug, curtains, nice bedding and a few other touches.

Helen decides she is going to be supportive, encouraging and nurturing during Nicola’s time with her but soon finds those feelings difficult to express when conflict appears in their opinions regarding this alternative therapy. Helen feels the people at the clinic are a bunch of quacks that are taking advantage of Nicola and sucking every last dime out of her in hefty payments for these treatments. Helen becomes more and more uncomfortable with the treatments that Nicola is enduring because they make her terribly, terribly ill to the point the woman can’t even stand up and shakes so violently that you’d think an earthquake was occurring! Nicola, on the other hand, is hanging onto hope and desperately trying to avoid self-pitying herself and disregards Helen’s caretaking.

You’ll feel both sympathy yet understanding on both Helen and Nicola’s parts and although this is a fiction book, it does read like real life and not a word is wasted here. It makes you stop to think about alternative therapy as being a choice in fighting cancer, but at the same time, reminds you to be ‘careful’ and research your options well.

Excellent novel that is a quick, sad-in-a-good-way-read!!

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