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One Day I’ll Remember This: Diaries 1987–1995 (Helen Garner, Text)

The second volume of Helen Garner’s diaries picks up right where the first left off. It’s 1987 and her daughter, having graduated high school, is leaving home—or rather, Garner is flying the nest, having just purchased her first house and leaving ‘M’ and her friends to occupy the old one. And so One Day I’ll Remember This begins with Garner entering a new phase of life, forever in an uneasy tension with her identity as both a woman and an artist. Through economical, carefully selected fragments, Garner paints a vivid picture of her busy life as it flows around her busy mind: she rides her bike around Melbourne; she takes trips to Europe and America; she has an affair with another—married—writer. Gradually that relationship engulfs Garner’s life, consuming her thoughts and taking up more diary space—space that I was hoping would be used to examine more deeply the process of writing 1995’s fraught and baffling The First Stone. Nevertheless, whether she’s dissecting the writing she admires or documenting her dreams and relationships, Garner’s self-deprecating reflections are profound and funny. Her dispatches from daily life in the late 80s and early 90s—which also offer glimpses of recognisable cultural and historical events from the time—are relayed in her trademark matter-of-fact prose, always oriented towards truth and self-examination, no matter how painful. It’s fortunate that Garner decided against burning all of her diaries because One Day I’ll Remember This is a revealing window into the mind of one of Australia’s greatest living writers.

Kelsey Oldham is an editor at Books+Publishing.


Category: Reviews