Stories: The Collected Short Fiction by Helen Garner

Monkey Grip, Helen Garner’s first novel, is raw. The portrayal of single mother Nora and heroin addict Javo’s life is now cemented as a classic. Written in 1977, it started her long career. She delves into authentic experiences of Australian life and disregards writing rules. She has mastery of the short story form.  In 2017 her fiction short stories were published in Stories. A companion called True Stories carried her non-fiction work. Helen Garner is refreshingly honest.  Postcards from Surfers is the pick in this collection. It is so accessible and filled with familiar landscapes.  From the arrival “Miles ahead of us, blurred in the milky air, I see a dream city: its cream and its silver, its turquoise towers thrust in a cluster from the distant spit.”  to the keen observation “the odd balcony on the half-empty tower holds rich people out into the creamy air”. It races to a conclusion dropping clues along the way.  These are written on postcards to Philip, a character from another life.  Lorna her aunt, is like everybody’s aunt who lives on the Gold Coast. Her father appears steadfast until intimate glimpses of their relationship are shared in postcard sized snippets. The story teeters from her beginnings in Geelong to her cosmopolitan life travelling. It leaves us with more questions than answers as she shares pivotal points of her growth. She is so candid and graceful, it takes your breath away.

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