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The novel that launched the career of one of Australia’s greatest writers, following the doomed infatuations of a young, single mother, enthralled by the excesses of Melbourne's late-70s counterculture
The name Helen Garner commands near-universal acclaim. A master novelist, short-story writer, and journalist, Garner is best known for her frank, unsparing, and intricate portraits of Australian life, often drawn from the pages of her own journals and diaries. Now, in a newly available US edition, comes the disruptive debut that established Garner's masterful and quietly radical literary voice.
Set in Australia in the late 1970s, Monkey Grip follows single mother and writer Nora as she navigates the tumultuous cityscape of Melbourne’s bohemian underground, often with her young daughter Gracie in tow. When Nora falls in love with the flighty Javo, she becomes snared in the web of his addiction. And as their tenuous relationship disintegrates, Nora struggles to wean herself off a love that feels impossible to live without.
When it first published in 1977, Monkey Grip was both a sensation and a lightning rod. While some critics praised the upstart Garner for her craft, many scorned her gritty depictions of the human body and all its muck, her frankness about sex and drugs and the mess of motherhood, and her unabashed use of her own life as inspiration. Today, such criticism feels old-fashioned and glaringly gendered, and Monkey Grip is considered a modern masterpiece.
A seminal novel of Australia’s turbulent 1970s and all it entailed—communal households, music, friendships, children, love, drugs, and sex—Monkey Grip now makes its long-overdue American debut.
About the Author
HELEN GARNER writes novels, stories, screenplays, and works of non-fiction. In 2006 she received the inaugural Melbourne Prize for Literature, and in 2016 she won the prestigious Windham–Campbell Literature Prize for Non-fiction. In 2019 she was honoured with the Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature. Her books include Monkey Grip, The Children’s Bach, Cosmo Cosmolino, The Spare Room, The First Stone, This House of Grief, Everywhere I Look, and her diaries Yellow Notebook, One Day I’ll Remember This, and How to End a Story.
"Acclaimed Australian writer Garner’s achingly poignant portrait of a young woman and the drug addict she loves rings with an authenticity that is, by turns, frustrating and sweet...In buoyant and vivid prose, Garner evokes the lies, deceptions, delusions, and hope that come with a life always lived on the edge of despair or delight."—Booklist
“A dreamy sojourn in the druggy, sexy counterculture of mid-1970s Melbourne, Australia... High times with the mother of autofiction."—Kirkus Reviews
“Reading Helen Garner for the first time is like discovering a new and thrilling language. I plan to read every word she has written. This novel is a gift and a marvel.” —Lily King, author of Writers & Lovers and Euphoria