Books

Review: Everywhere I Look

29 March 2016

Helen Garner’s latest offering gives us an insight into the world in which her most acclaimed works were written. Initially, Everywhere I Look seems to do little more than showcase the effortless beauty of Garner’s writing. However, as the book progresses, it becomes obvious that the stories included have a deeper, more personal meaning and are laying the groundwork for an understanding of Garner’s creative mind and her reasons for focusing on such dark and tragic events.

The book is broken up into five sections, each touching on a different aspect of Garner’s writing and life. The stories all stand alone and are fantastic in their brevity, as all short stories are. Most of the sections detail Garner’s personal life, with musings on her sense of place, tributes to her literary friends, diary entries following the lives of her grandkids and her introspective view about growing older.

My favourite section is ‘Part Five: The Journey of the Stamp Animals’, which contains a diverse range of book and movie reviews. The article How to Marry Your Daughters is a fantastic review of re-reading Pride and Prejudice and brings a lighter, more humorous air to a book I found quite stuffy and formal. The Rules of Engagement shares a gripping review of the film United 93, which, as Garner says, some might think lacks artistic merit. But Garner’s final paragraph beautifully captures the sense of art and how it should leave you feeling. Her reviews, combined with her personal musings and diary entries provide a tiny peek into the way Garner views the world.

Most of the articles in this collection have been published previously, but this compact anthology showcases some of the more obscure and fascinating pieces Garner has written. There are a number of articles about high profile court cases which provide an interesting perspective on the situations. For example, The Singular Rosie touches on Rosie Batty’s story and shares the relationship Garner developed with the grieving mother. Other articles include a case about a 17-year-old girl who is on trial for murdering her baby and the Farquharson trial. Each article describes Garner’s emotional reaction and her struggle to deal with the tragic nature of the events.

Another highlight of the book is Garner’s grandson Ted. He features in Garner’s diary extracts as a wild cowboy that clearly has his grandma wrapped around his little finger. Their cute and quirky interactions are littered throughout the book in Garner’s diary entries and always bring a smile to my face. They help to show a different side to Garner’s life that is not focused on writing.

This is a perfect book for a brief escape. Short stories full of emotion and life. Stories that lift you up and draw you in. This book is great for any reader looking for short, sharp reads that are wonderfully written.