'In October 1997 a clever young law student at ANU made a bizarre plan to murder her devoted boyfriend after a dinner party at their house. Some of the dinner guests - most of them university students - had heard rumours of the plan. Nobody warned Joe Cinque. He died one Sunday, in his own bed, of a massive dose of rohypnol and heroin. His girlfriend and her best friend were charged with murder. Helen Garner followed the trials in the ACT Supreme Court. Compassionate but unflinching, this is a book about how and why Joe Cinque died. It probes the gap between ethics and the law; examines the helplessness of the courts in the face of what we think of as 'evil'; and explores conscience, culpability, and the battered ideal of duty of care.' (Source: Pan Macmillan website)
Garner takes 'a deliberately subjective and "literary" approach' to her material with an 'emphasis on a sympatheitic authorial persona as the source of the reader's perspective' (Susan Lever 'The Crimes of the Past: Anna Funder's Stasiland and Helen Garner's Joe Cinque's Consolation'. Paper delivered at the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL) conference 2006).
'In early 1997, Anu Singh, a beautiful law student at the Australian National University, began to tell people she planned to kill herself. With doctors unable to help, Anu’s engineer boyfriend, Joe Cinque, attempts to get to the bottom of her condition. But as Anu’s mental and emotional state disintegrates, her plans grow more macabre and more public as she convinces fellow student Madhavi to help her. With Joe beginning to understand the true nature of their relationship, Anu starts talking of killing him as revenge for having made her ill. After an elaborate farewell dinner party attended by friends, Anu attempts to kill Joe but fails. She tries again and this time she succeeds, injecting Joe with a lethal dose of heroin. Nobody tried to stop her. ' (Production summary)
'Douglas and Barnett discuss their experiences teaching life writings of trauma to undergraduate literature students, employing Helen Garner's Joe Cinque's Consolation as a case study. They consider the affect of trauma stories and explore the ethics of including trauma texts in the literature curriculum–texts that often confront and destabilize students' reading positions. Such texts require the deployment of literary methodologies including, but also beyond, close reading–for instance, paratextual, contextual, and theory-based readings. Life narratives of trauma offer a means for broad considerations of the social and political efficacy of Australian literature texts.' (Publication summary)
'In Law and Literature, a subject offered to the University of Melbourne’s final-year law students, they study Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man and Helen Garner’s Joe Cinque’s Consolation. In both books the law fails. Or as Gary Cazalet, who got the subject up and running, says of Hooper’s book: ‘It is an indictment of our legal system and it isn’t.’ I’d put it another way. In both books the victims’ families find, in law, neither solace nor justice. Justice, that is, the way we laypeople like to imagine it: morally purifying, thunderously absolute, a revelation, a release—justice of the kind that law can rarely give us.' (Author's introduction)
In this conference paper, available at the Academia.edu repository, Susan Lever compares Stasiland to Helen Garner’s Joe Cinque’s Consolation. The paper 'considers the similarities in approach to real events of Anna Funder's examination of the GDR and its system of surveillance, and Helen Garner's account of the trials of the killer of a young man in Canberra. It argues that the "novelistic", subjective approach to these real events counters the cold rationality of the state, and the legal process. The author/narrators openly side with the victims, speaking for the personal nature of experience, and a feminist perspective.' (From author's abstract.)