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The Children's Bach

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781399606820

Price: £9.99

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‘A jewel of a novel about a perfect family falling apart’

The Children’s Bach is Garner’s masterpiece’

‘A perfect novel. I was so stunned that I wanted to run around the block’

Athena and Dexter Fox are happy. They love each other. They are friends.

They live with their young sons in a sparsely furnished house near the Merri Creek: its walls cracking, its floors sloping and its doors hanging loosely in their frames. There is a piano in their kitchen.

But then, one day – years after their lives have taken different directions – Dexter runs into Elizabeth, an old friend from his university days. She brings into his world her loose-living musician boyfriend, Philip, and her seventeen-year-old sister, Vicki.

And all at once, the bonds that hold the Fox family together begin to fray.

Helen Garner’s perfectly formed novels embody Melbourne’s tumultuous 1970s and 1980s. Drawn on a small canvas and with a subtle musical backdrop, The Children’s Bach is a beloved work that weighs the burdens of commitment against the costs of liberation.

A W&N Essential


The perfect example of a novel that omits, but provides enough rich detail to make the reader's work pay off... A tour de force of control and variety.
Australian novelist Helen Garner, writer of wonderful, pitilessly sharp-eyed domestic dramas, deserves to be better known, and this reissue of her 1984 novel, with an introduction by David Nicholls, is a corker... Garner writes delicious sentences and is crystal clear that life is a messy business.
Brooding, sensual, smartly-written... This is one of Garner's greatest talents: her ability to portray life on the page as it's really lived, chaotic, scrappy, sometimes wonderful and oftentimes horrible.
A slim, deeply humane work that tingles with life.
Johanna Thomas-Corr, THE TIMES, Best Books of 2024
Whichever form she's inhabiting, Garner is great company: perceptive, unsparing of others yet also self-questioning. Her books contain details that radiate long after you finish reading them.
One of the most significant Australian novels of the last fifty years... It combines omniscience with dirty-realist minimalism - a unique tenor lying somewhere between the styles of George Eliot and Raymond Carver - darting from one short episode to the next without exposition or anything but the most efficient kind of scene-setting.
Helen Garner portrays her characters with a clear eye for their dreams, their insecurities and their deep humanity in this intimate and engaging short novel, which was first published in 1984.
Anne Enright
[A] spare, subtle, technically sophisticated novella about a cluster of family and friends in suburban Melbourne... Garner, one of Australia's most admired writers, is a master anatomist of ordinary lives across fiction and non-fiction... which refuses to be constrained by the conventions of literary form... a kind of choral consciousness in which one character's perspective slips into another's to create a complex story about love and sex that vibrates with life.
Johanna Thomas-Corr, THE TIMES