My Hard Heart: Selected fiction by Helen Garner

by
August 1998, no. 203

My Hard Heart: Selected fiction by Helen Garner

Viking, $22.95 pb

My Hard Heart: Selected fiction by Helen Garner

by
August 1998, no. 203

‘When a woman realises that she hates Madame Bovary, darling girl, that’s when she knows she’s come of age.’

What do we talk about when we talk about Helen Garner? About her writing, that is, about such a consummate novella as The Children’s Bach, about extraordinary stories such as ‘A Vigil’, in Cosmo Cosmolino, about the eponymous ‘Postcards from Surfers’, and a dozen others? We talk about domestic realism, we talk about fiction that encompasses not merely the present supposedly self-obsessed Baby Boomer generation but children and grandparents also, we talk about discipline, control, and the assurance that more is less. We talk, despite her ‘despair of feeling trapped inside [my] own style’ (in True Stories: Selected non-fiction, 1996, from which my epigraph also is taken), of a virtuoso who hit her distinctive style early – in Honour, say – and has progressively refined it to more and more subtle effect. We think of a connoisseur of the moral and emotional life who renders these with unflinching honesty, whatever the cost, whatever the pain, to herself and others. We – or, rather, I – talk about her modesty, while not assuming patriarchally that woman ought to be modest, but with Jane Austen’s letter of 1805 in mind: ‘If [s]he were less modest, [s]he would be more agreeable, speak louder & look Impudenter; – and is it not a fine Character of which Modesty is the only defect?’

Don Anderson reviews 'My Hard Heart: Selected fiction' by Helen Garner

My Hard Heart: Selected fiction

by Helen Garner

Viking, $22.95 pb

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