Helen Garner and me


So I’m reading an article about Helen Garner in the Weekend Oz magazine.

It’s an excerpt from a new book about her, called A Writing Life: Helen Garner and Her Work by Bernadette Brennan.

Then I read this:

[After discarding a third draft of the Farquharson book] Garner once again contemplated dropping the whole project but she could not break free. Then, in February 2012, she received a letter from a police officer’s wife. In part it read: “The issue of why men kill their children is enormously important… Your book will also be read by people like my husband, the police detective, who may gain an insight that will help him deal with the issue on a professional level. Or at least gain a sense that his own bewilderment is shared.”

I wrote that letter!!!! To say thank you after attending one of Helen’s writing classes (during which she spoke about struggling with the Farquharson book).


I’m shocked and kind of thrilled all at once.

To keep it in perspective, Helen Garner subsequently contacted me after I sent that letter. I was super excited, until it became clear that she wanted to take my HUSBAND out for a coffee. Not me. Sigh. He went, had a nice chat with HG and now teases me about HIS friend Helen Garner. C’est la vie.


17 responses »

  1. Never mind, you can have a drink with your fellow writer Garner at the publisher’s christmas party. As to the bigger issue: I think children are too often just collateral damage when husbands and wives focus their anger on each other.


    • Children as collateral damage? Maybe, but I fear the patriarchy ensures that some fathers see children as ‘belonging’ to the mother (rather than to them both, as parents). Therefore, deliberately hurt the children = hurt the mother x infinity.


  2. Oh, good for you Michelle for writing that letter. I think both you and Bill are right. I think sometimes it’s a case of getting at the mother through the children (but that also makes them collateral damage, doesn’t it?). I think also that they tend to see their wives/partners and children as their possessions, and there’s a whole complicated set of behaviours that can stem from that.


    • Thanks Sue – I’m glad I wrote that letter too!
      To be clear about my views about children as ‘collateral damage’, I don’t think they are. It is my understanding that many family violence perpetrators use deliberate controlling behaviour towards all family members. The children are part of the equation when the perpetrator makes the decision to inflict harm and indeed often an integral part of the perpetrator’s plan to inflict violence. I fear even the phrase ‘collateral damage’ implies absolving the perpetrator of responsibility for inflicting harm on the children (even when they are ‘only’ witnesses to violence). It seems the legislators agree: in the past I’ve looked up the actual family violence legislation and was surprised by how much it encompasses.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah yes Michelle, I see what you’re saying. I hadn’t thought of them as “collateral damage” before, but Bill’s comment made sense. However, by your description and definition I can see theyre not. Then again, that makes me think that “collateral damage” isn’t really correct in other places it’s used either.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this story Michelle. If not for this article, you might never have known the influence your letter had. It’s a wonderful confirmation of the power of words, of community … and of following your inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: The Spare Room, Helen Garner | theaustralianlegend

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