Set in inner suburban 1970s Melbourne, Monkey Grip describes the fluid relationships of a community of friends who are living and loving in new ways. Nora falls in love with Javo the junkie, and together they try to make sense of their lives and the choices they have made.
Set in inner Melbourne over two summers, Monkey Grip is a frank portrayal of a divorced mother who is attempting to cope with both her thirteen-year-old daughter and her own relationship with a drug addict, while also trying to get into the music business. As she battles to regain control of her life, we meet an array of talented and reckless musicians, actors, and writers, all of whom play a part in her world and most of whom refuse to live by society's rules.
'In 1978, Australia’s two most coveted national literary prizes of the time were both won by women: Helen Garner’s first novel Monkey Grip (1977) won the National Book Council Award for fiction, and the Miles Franklin Literary Award was won by Tirra Lirra by the River (1978), Jessica Anderson’s fourth novel. Both of these books have since become classics of Australian literature, rarely out of print and regularly rediscovered by new generations of readers.' (Author's introduction 30)