Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

This House of Grief – Helen Garner

Non-Fiction 5*s
Non-Fiction
5*s

Telling the tale of a court case of Robert Farquharson, an Australian man on trial for killing his three sons. The undisputed facts are that the car that Robert Farquharson was driving ended up in the dam, the father escaped but the sons didn’t even make it out of the sunken vehicle. The truth of what happened that night, well that may never truly be known…

Helen Garner saw an item on the news and thought to herself that Father’s Day evening in 2005 and hoped that it was a tragic accident. When Robert was committed to trial she sat in the court room every day with a young gap-year student, listening and watching and this book is the result. Her quest to understand what happened and why is unwavering, yet without the prurient feel some true crime books have.

Do you think the story he told the police could be true – that he had a coughing fit and blacked out at the wheel? There is such a thing. It’s called cough syncope. The ex-wife swore at the committal hearing that he loved his boy’s. So? Since when has loving someone meant you would never want to kill them? She said it was a tragic accident – that he wouldn’t have hurt a hair on their heads.

Never before have I read about a murder trial in such detail, as Garner doesn’t just give us the facts, she recreates the court room with its moments of high drama and the low energy of the listeners to three days of evidence given by the police about tire tracks and tufts of grass. Although we don’t get descriptions of the jurors, for obvious reasons, everything is scrutinised, seemingly gently but missing nothing. Helen shares with us the ups and downs not only of the overarching trial but the mood of the jurors, the latest hot topic from the journalists, the sympathy she herself feels towards Cindy the boy’s mother but also towards Robert and his steadfast family. She puzzles at parts of the evidence, gives us the ‘everyman’ view from comments she overhears, she talks to Cindy’s parents, the man who runs the coffee stall, the gap-year student who has the certainty of the young We are given the smallest details that tell a lot about the mood in the court room, not just from the energy and passion of the defence and prosecution lawyers, but the drooping of a head, the fingering of a shirt collar and the stillness when significant evidence is given or refuted.

This is such a compelling read as Garner spends her time in court acting like one of the jurors, although she doesn’t bear their huge responsibility of listening to conflicting experts, possible mistakes that could be dismissed in any other arena, but in court are subjected to endless questioning that results in either point of view become entirely irrelevant. She feels for the men and women who are on the witness stand.

The repeated order ‘Just answer the question’ came to sound like a gag or a bridle. How crude, how primitive were the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in the face of questions on which so much hung!

Garner is not a juror though, so she is also is able to include the evidence not presented to them, the evidence that is withdrawn on different grounds.

This book covers both the original trial and a later re-trial by which time feelings have solidified and those attending have aged. The book covers a total of over three months of court time which is condensed into roughly 300 pages of engaging prose, an absolute must read for those who want the inside knowledge of a court trial, in some ways far removed from that which we see on TV and in films but in others, just as you’d expect.

Never before have a read a non-fiction book that has so effectively transported me to a scene, like Garner herself, the days I spent reading this evocative, detailed yet accessible book, I pondered over the phrases used by the accused, I winced at the evidence given by the friend and I applauded the jurors for their tenacity.

I came across this book on Guy Savage’s book blog where he reviewed this book and as a result bought myself a copy – a purchase I certainly didn’t regret. I already have my eye on Joe Cinque’s Consolation by the same author and I’m sure my willpower will fail before too long as this is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (December 2)

This Week In Books

Hosted by Lypsyy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

I have finally started All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, a book that has been on my TBR for way too long.

All The Light We Cannot See

Blurb

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.
In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.
Doerr’s gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is his most ambitious and dazzling work. NetGalley

I have just finished the absolutely fascinating This House of Grief by Helen Garner where I got way too involved in the details of this Australian murder trial.

This House of Grief

Blurb

On the evening of September 4th 2005, Robert Farquharson, a separated husband, was driving his three sons home to their mother, Cindy, when his car left the road and plunged into a dam. The boys, aged ten, seven and two, all drowned. Was this an act of revenge or a tragic accident? In a tale reminiscent of In Cold Blood (1966), Helen Garner decided to reveal every aspect of this complicated and highly emotional case.In this utterly compelling book, Helen Garner tells the story of a man with a broken life and bears witness to an often uncomfortable truth. Amazon

My review will follow shortly

In the new spirit of choosing more books from my TBR I have decided to read something a little lighter next so I have chosen The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty

The Hypnotist's Love Story

Blurb

Hypnotherapist Ellen is fascinated by what makes people tick. So when she falls in love with Patrick, the fact that he has a stalker doesn’t faze her in the slightest. If anything it intrigues her, and the more she hears about Saskia, the more she wants to meet this woman. But what Ellen doesn’t know is that they’ve already met . . .
Saskia has been posing as one of Ellen’s clients. Unable to let go of the life she so abruptly lost, she wants to know everything about the woman who took her place. And the further she inches her way into Ellen’s world, the more trouble she stirs up.
Ellen’s love story is about to take an unexpected turn. But it’s not only Saskia who doesn’t know where to stop: Ellen also has to ask herself what lines she’s prepared to cross to get the happy ending she’s always wanted.
Thought-provoking, sympathetic and smart, Liane Moriarty’s The Hypnotist’s Love Story is a novel for anyone who’s ever loved, lost or found it hard to let go. Amazon

What are you reading this week? Do share!

See what I’ve been reading in 2015 here

Posted in Weekly Posts

Stacking The Shelves (June 27)

Stacking the shelves

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you’re adding to your shelves, be it buying or borrowing. From ‘real’ books you’ve purchased, a book you’ve borrowed, a book you’ve been given or an e-book they can all be shared!

I haven’t shown you the recent additions to my shelves for the last couple of week and once again, seeing as I’ve been being good there seems to be quite a few!

From NetGalley I am delighted to have a copy of The Girls by Lisa Jewell, I really love this authors writing style and The House We  Grew Up In is a great example of her work.
The Girls

Blurb

You live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses.
You’ve known your neighbours for years and you trust them. Implicitly.
You think your children are safe.
But are they really?
Midsummer night: a thirteen-year-old girl is found unconscious in a dark corner of the garden square. What really happened to her? And who is responsible? NetGalley

I also have a copy of The Insanity of Murder by Felicity Young which features Doctor Dody McCleland. I have the first of this series, An Anatomy of Death on my 20 Books of Summer challenge which I will need to read first.

The Insanity of Murder

Blurb

To Doctor Dody McCleland, the gruesome job of dealing with the results of an explosion at the Necropolis Railway Station is testing enough. But when her suffragette sister Florence is implicated in the crime, matters worsen and Dody finds her loyalty cruelly divided. Can she choose between love for her sister and her secret love for Chief Inspector Matthew Pike, the investigating officer on the case?
Dody and Pike’s investigations lead them to a women’s rest home where patients are not encouraged to read or think and where clandestine treatments and operations are conducted in an unethical and inhumane manner. Together Dody and Pike must uncover such foul play before their secret liaisons become public knowledge – and before Florence becomes the rest home’s next victim. NetGalley

I am also lucky enough to have a copy of The Mistake I Made by Paula Daly who wrote the stunning Just What Kind of Mother Are You? and Keep Your Friends Close.

The Mistake I Made

Blurb

We all think we know who we are.
What we’re capable of.

Roz is a single mother, a physiotherapist, a sister, a friend. She’s also desperate.
Her business has gone under, she’s crippled by debt and she’s just had to explain to her son why someone’s taken all their furniture away.
But now a stranger has made her an offer. For one night with her, he’ll pay enough to bring her back from the edge.
Roz has a choice to make.

Lastly I have a copy of Preserve The Dead by Brian McGilloway

Preserve The Dead

Blurb

Detective Sergeant Lucy Black is visiting her father, a patient in a secure unit in Gransha Hospital on the banks of the River Foyle. He’s been hurt badly in an altercation with another patient, and Lucy is shocked to discover him chained to the bed for safety. But she barely has time to take it all in, before an orderly raises the alarm – a body has been spotted floating in the river below…
The body of an elderly man in a grey suit is hauled ashore: he is cold dead. He has been dead for several days. In fact a closer examination reveals that he has already been embalmed. A full scale investigation is launched – could this really be the suicide they at first assumed, or is this some kind of sick joke?
Troubled and exhausted, Lucy goes back to her father’s shell of a house to get some sleep; but there’ll be no rest for her tonight. She’s barely in the front door when a neighbour knocks, in total distress – his wife’s sister has turned up badly beaten. Can she help? NetGalley

I also have added a few books to my own physical bookshelf starting with Capital Crimes: London Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards following this enticing review from Fiction Fan

Capital Crimes London Mysteries

Blurb

With its fascinating mix of people – rich and poor, British and foreign, worthy and suspicious – London is a city where anything can happen. The possibilities for criminals and for the crime writer are endless. London has been home to many of fiction’s finest detectives, and the setting for mystery novels and short stories of the highest quality. Capital Crimes is an eclectic collection of London-based crime stories, blending the familiar with the unexpected in a way that reflects the personality of the city.
Alongside classics by Margery Allingham, Anthony Berkeley and Thomas Burke are excellent and unusual stories by authors who are far less well known. The stories give a flavour of how writers have tackled crime in London over the span of more than half a century. Their contributions range from an early serial-killer thriller set on the London Underground and horrific vignettes to cerebral whodunits.
What they have in common is an atmospheric London setting, and enduring value as entertainment. Each story is introduced by the editor, Martin Edwards, who sheds light on the authors’ lives and the background to their writing. Amazon

Following my post looking at the books on my shelves that look at Women’s Lives I received many great recommendations and chose to start with this one from twitter buddy Poppy @poppypeacock; Nobody’s Child by Kate Adie

Nobody's Child

Blurb

What’s your name? Where were you born? What is your date of birth?
Simple questions that we are asked throughout our life – but what if you didn’t know the answers? Kate Adie uncovers the extraordinary, moving and inspiring stories of just such children – without mother or father, any knowledge of who they might be, or even a name to call their own.
With a curiosity inspired by her own circumstances as an adopted child, Kate shows how the most remarkable adults have survived the experience of abandonment.
From every perspective Kate Adie brings us a personal, moving and fascinating insight into the very toughest of childhood experiences – and shows what makes us who we really are. Amazon

My final addition has been on my radar for a while from a number of mentions around the blogosphere but this brilliant review by Guy Savage meant that I simply had to add This House of Grief by Helen Garner to my bookshelf.

This House of Grief

Blurb

On the evening of 4 September 2005, Robert Farquharson, a separated husband, was driving his three sons home to their mother when his car plunged into a dam. The boys, aged ten, seven, and two, drowned. Was this an act of deliberate revenge or a tragic accident? The court case became Helen Garner’s obsession. She was in the courtroom every day of Farquharson’s trial and subsequent retrial, along with countless journalists and the families of both the accused and his former wife.
In this utterly compelling book, Helen Garner tells the story of a man and his broken life. At its core is a search for truth that takes author and reader through complex psychological terrain. Garner exposes, with great compassion, that truth and justice are as complex as human frailty and morality. Goodreads

Any of these take your fancy or perhaps you’ve already read them?
What have you found to read this week? Please do share in the comments below