'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)
'Working in the archives of living writers provides exciting possibilities for extended interpersonal research as well as ethical challenges. This article explores the author’s experience of working in Helen Garner’s restricted archives and negotiating the demands of scholarly objectivity with an increasingly felt empathic engagement. The author traces a chronological path through the archives relating to Garner’s three substantial works of non-fiction: The First Stone (1995), Joe Cinque’s Consolation (2004) and This House of Grief (2014). She draws attention to some of the ways in which distance and objectivity can be influenced not only by contact with a living writer but also by the space in which the archive is encountered. With a deliberate focus on the lived experience of researching, rather than a scholarly examination of archival theory, the author offers a case study of how the interaction of archives and living subject can shape research and publication.' (Publication abstract)
'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)