2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge Review: Monkey Grip by Helen Garner

Logo of a silhouette of a steampunkily-dressed woman in a hat carrying an umbrella. In white text on the silhouette is '2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge'.

Monkey Grip by Helen Garner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blurb from Goodreads

In “Monkey Grip”, Helen Garner charts the lives of a generation. Her characters are exploring new ways of loving and living – and nothing is harder than learning to love lightly. Nora and Javo are trapped in a desperate relationship. Nora’s addiction is romantic love; Javo’s is hard drugs. The harder they pull away, the tighter the monkey grip. A lyrical, gritty, rough-edged novel that deserves its place as a classic of Australian fiction.

My review

I got a lot out of this book – and there’s a lot to get, for a patient reader. It’s a book about Melbourne in the mid-1970s, about community, about love, about addiction, about love as addiction, and about how you can only live your own life.

This is not a gentle or easy book. It is narrated in first person by the main character, Nora, and the reader is thrown in the deep end, only ever given as much about Nora’s external life and circumstances as is absolutely necessary (and this is usually divulged with great subtlety). Nora is (in no particular order) an actor, a woman in love, a mother, a some-time drug taker, a part of a hippie community/commune, a feminist, a writer for a feminist magazine. We are taken through the year or so of Nora’s relationship with Javo, a junkie, during 1975 (and a bit on either side).

What one learns from this book is up to the reader. If you trust to Ms Garner, you will be lifted by the current and brought safely to the end of the book.

This is an extra review for the 2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge. You can see my full list of books here. You can find a full list of my reviews, and other posts relevant to the challenge, here.


Categories: arts & entertainment, Culture, gender & feminism

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