This House of Grief by Helen Garner, book review: Not a whodunnit but a why'd-he-do-it?

Garner shines a torch into the lives of Australians we rarely read about

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The Independent Culture

Helen Garner appears in tune with the subjects of her canvas - the relatives, friends and victims of Robert Farquharson, a down-on-his-luck man who drove into a dam on Father's Day in 2005 and then climbed out of the car, leaving his three young sons to drown.

This is not so much a whodunnit as a why'd-he-do-it? Did a mysterious coughing fit really propel the car off the road and into the water, as he always maintained, or was it the ultimate act of revenge against the wife he had loved but who had left him for another man?

The jury decided it was the latter– twice in fact – he was again found guilty of murder following a retrial in 2010.

Garner's real focus is not on the verdict but on the inner world of a doomed family. If you liked Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, this is an Australian version, with a full cast of indebted, overweight chain-smoking characters from the wrong side of the tracks.

Garner shines a torch into the lives of the kind of Australians we rarely read about or see on film.

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