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Joe Cinque's Consolation by Helen Garner

September 2004, no. 264

Joe Cinque's Consolation by Helen Garner

Picador, $24.99 pp, 348

Joe Cinque's Consolation by Helen Garner

September 2004, no. 264

Already, Anu Singh’s story is grimly familiar. Now free again, just thirty-one, she has entered the popular pantheon of malefactors. Her attractive face appears in the newspapers, taut with self-justification. There is talk of a documentary. Notoriety, even a kind of celebrity – that amoral nirvana – is hers.

If Singh’s deepest motivation for killing Joe Cinque (the victim in the title of Helen Garner’s new book) remains unclear, the facts about her descent are all rehearsed in Joe Cinque’s Consolation. Singh is the daughter of two Indian doctors. A bright student, she grew up in Newcastle, then moved to Canberra to study law at the Australian National University. Even when her nervous equilibrium began to suffer, she did well at exams. Garner describes her as ‘a drastic dieter and a driven frequenter of gyms, obsessed with physical imperfections both real and imagined’. Proud of her waistline, Singh declared that she would rather be dead than fat. She was a committed recreational drug user: alcohol, cannabis, speed, ecstasy, cocaine, acid, crystal meth. (It’s a miracle, really, that she retained her six-pack.) By 1995, when Singh met Cinque – an equable, malleable young civil engineer – she was using drugs daily. She developed eating disorders and became convinced that she was suffering from an incurable muscle-wasting condition. Apparently at Joe’s suggestion, she began taking ipecac in order to purge. Ants, she fancied, were crawling beneath her skin.

Peter Rose reviews 'Joe Cinque's Consolation' by Helen Garner

Joe Cinque's Consolation

by Helen Garner

Picador, $24.99 pp, 348

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Comment (1)

  • I have not read the book yet. Tried to get it from book deposotory / Amazon etc but it is strangely unavailable except as a Kindle. Pan MacMillan are selling it online but strangely are not supplying bookstores (seeking monopoly profits?). All used copies from Abebooks are from the US.

    I saw the movie at the ANU Film Group in the presence of the movie director, and found it deeply disturbing. I also felt the anger seeping from me. I daid to the director that the movie posed more questions than provided answers and that I would like to see another movie from the perspective of the police and prosecution authorities and the trial, to see why more people were not indicted and convicted. How was it possible that Ms Rao was aquitted and Ms Singh received such a token sentence. I think in the US this would have 'conspiracy' and 'death sentence' written all over it. It was the relentlessly calculated nature of the killing and the silence of the onlookers that deeply disturbed me. WHERE has our moral compasd gone?
    Posted by Robert Warn
    24 October 2017

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