Spare Room, The

Garner, Helen

  13 Reviews

Helen lovingly prepares her spare room for her friend Nicola who is coming to stay for the next three weeks, while Nicola undergoes treatment she believes will cure her advanced cancer. Helen becomes her nurse, her servant, her guardian angel and her stony judge. The Spare Room is an unforgettable story about what happens to a friendship when the chips are down. [Taken from the book cover.] Winner of both the Queensland and Victorian Premiers' Literary Awards. [Larger font]

Comments from Groups

We were surprised to enjoy this book as much as we did. Well written and truthfully written with humour and perception. Led to a great discussion. Kimbolten 001

A story that evoked strong emotions in some people who had nursed family dying of cancer. An honest story. Ngarimu Bay 001

Fiery discussion! How far would you go to lengthen your life? How much support could you give to a dying friend? Well written and good characterisation. Christchurch 238

This is a book that really made us think. It will resonate for some time. New Plymouth 014.

A good quick read which approached the reality and honesty of two friends dealing with cancer. Te Puke 007

We felt the author dealt very well with a difficult subject, even making parts of it humorous! Hamilton 034



Extremely well written,and though it was honest, raw and harrowing in parts, it was still easy to read as it was balanced with lighter moments,( the magician scene). Some found it triggering and uncomfortable because of their similar experiences. It conveyed all the complex real feelings with relatable honesty. It provoked a deep discussion as people shared their personal experiences of losing loved ones, how to be supportive, while balancing it with self care, and the cruel to be kind telling of painful truths. It was a slice of life. Some thought the ending clumsy and a little too tidy.
AKAR 002
A varied discussion, depending on personal experiences. A well balanced story and not over done, as would have been easy and therefore spoilt. Not too long and easy to read. Expresses the raw truth of dealing with death.
Members found this a bit patchy. Some of the writing was very effective, especially parts describing the setting. But the premise of a desperate search for healing, and blindness to all else, was too much for some - strained credulity.
This novel created plenty of discussion in our group. Several had the experience of caring for unwell partners and the limitations this created in their lives. This experience of despair, the sense of unfairness of what life had dealt, and the black humour, was also so well captured and realistically portrayed by the author.
AUCK 248
A book about friendship, how women relate to women, and how far a desperate person will go to live longer. This was simply and beautifully written - easy to read and very engaging and all our group loved it.
'The Spare Room' was an easy read but well focused on the subject of terminal illness, not always an easy subject to deal with. The bitter sweet relationship of the two main characters struck a chord with the members of our group who had nursed cancer patients at home. They also discussed bogus treatments and the desperation that goes with their use. A gem, a vignette of two friends and the adversities they faced dealing with terminal illness. We would recommend this book.
This short book was discussed for an hour by our group who were all glad they had read it. We felt the author had explored the difficulties of accepting, or fighting death, in a way that made us consider our own attitudes.
AUCK 412
Most enjoyed this book, despite the thought-provoking subject matter (was a bit close to home for a couple of members). An easy read that can be done in a couple of sittings.
CHCH 299
An enjoyable read despite the subject matter, and one of the rare books enjoyed by everyone in the group. Most felt she captured the emotion of caring for someone with a terminal illness and the toll it can take on the caregiver. She also covered the complexities of having to deal with someone's alternative approach to treatment, and the dilemma of wanting the best for the sick person while respecting their right to make their own choices. A quick read and a good discussion book.
CHCH 378
A mixed review. Most did not enjoy it because they felt it bought back too many personal memories. Others enjoyed the descriptiveness of the writing.
A gem of a book that can be read in one or two sittings. Beautiful succinct writing which evokes all the emotions which come into play, both negative and positive, when caring for a terminally ill friend. A thoughtful and insightful book with touches of humour, it is very easy to read. Highly recommended.
NAP 021
The book evoked some lengthy discussion. I felt that anyone who had experienced cancer with a loved one, or themselves, saw this book in a totally different way to any of the other group members. We all agreed that both sides of the story gave us all sympathetic feelings towards each woman. Well written and surprisingly easy to read.
We found in this book a richness of discussion topics such as: dealing with a cancer diagnosis, dealing with friends who are terminal, alternative medicine, how to be caring, facing the facts, what to do when loved ones cannot accept the diagnosis, euthanasia, and so on. The author uses a simplistic, journalistic style which irritated some members, but the author did handle her characters in a sensitive and sympathetic way, and although we did not actually enjoy the book, it provoked some serious thought for all of us.