Review: This House of Grief by Helen Garner

On Father's Day 2005, a horrific incident occurred in rural Victoria when a Holden Commodore plunged into a dam. The driver pulled himself free of the vehicle and swam out of the damn. The three passengers, his sons aged 10, 7 and 2 drowned inside the vehicle. As far the police were concerned, the evidence was obvious. Robert Farquharson was soon charged with murder. Things were more complex behind the scenes. In This House of Grief beloved Australian author Helen Garner turns her hand to investigating the crime, and details the evidence presented in court at both trials--during which she was present as a member of the public. Through this she tells a story of an unhappy marriage, of Robert Farquharson's obsession with getting revenge on Cindy Morales, mother of the children and his former wife who had left him for another man, and of Cindy Morales herself, a woman who had married on the rebound and who, in her grief believed that her ex-husband was innocent, though as she continued to grieve this view changed and she agreed with the guilty verdict.

This House of Grief offers insight into a truly horrific crime. Garner acts as a 'thirteenth juror' as she allows the trial and the evidence to play out for the reader. In places, she also speculates about the very real people behind the case, and offers various observations about their attendance in court. As Garner suggests at the end of the book, crimes like these are, and should be, of concern to us all. Three innocent lives, taken in a calculated moment of revenge, can never be replaced. 

Obviously, this book is not easy reading. This, however, does not make the narrative or the insight offered any less important. 

Recommended.

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