How to End a Story: Diaries, 1995–1998 by Helen Garner
One can only imagine the enormous bravery it must take to publish a diary. Sharing your most private thoughts with the world is not for the faint of heart. But, faint of heart is not a term I would ever think to apply to Helen Garner. As a long-term reader of hers, it has always felt to me as though she is unafraid to be vulnerable, to examine her own thoughts and actions (and those of others) with a near forensic approach.
How to End a Story, the third instalment of Garner’s diaries, spans the years 1995 to 1998. Still grappling with the aftershocks of the controversy that swirled around the publication of The First Stone, one is drawn quickly into a deeply personal period of emotional growth, intensive therapy, writer’s block, a search for a place of one’s own and the simultaneously suffocating and explosive disintegration of her 10-year marriage.
Here is a woman valiantly trying to establish her right to take up space in the world, all while being subjected to inexcusable gaslighting by the person one would expect to be her greatest supporter. The tenacious ferocity with which Garner fought for her marriage, and assert her right to be heard and respected as an equal within it, is nothing short of breathtaking. Shining through all of this is the network of friends and family Garner draws strength from and her gratitude for their support and comfort. This network, coupled with her own indefatigable spirit, causes the reader to cheer her on and cry with her, all the way through to the blue couch.
How to End a Story is a devastating yet enlightening look into the private thoughts and feelings of an incredible woman. It is a privilege to read, and I for one, feel stronger and better for having done so.