Shortlist year: 2015

Shortlist category: Non-fiction

Published by: Text Publishing

On the evening of 4 September 2005, Father's Day, Robert Farquharson, a separated husband, was driving his three sons home to their mother, Cindy, when his car left the road and plunged into a dam. The boys, aged ten, seven and two, drowned. Was this an act of revenge or a tragic accident?

The court case became Helen Garner's obsession. She followed it on its protracted course until the final verdict.

About the author

Helen Garner

Helen Garner's first novel, Monkey Grip, came out in 1977, won the 1978 National Book Council Award, and was adapted for film in 1981.

Since then she has published novels, short stories, essays, and feature journalism. Her screenplay The Last Days of Chez Nous was filmed in 1990.

Garner has won many prizes, among them a Walkley Award for her 1993 article about the murder of two-year-old Daniel Valerio. In 1995 she published The First Stone, a controversial account of a Melbourne University sexual harassment case.

Joe Cinque's Consolation (2004) was a non-fiction study of two murder trials in Canberra.

Judges’ comments

The story follows the trials and appeals after three young boys were drowned when the car driven by their father plunged into a dam in Victoria. According to the defence, the driver lost consciousness and only recovered when his oldest son opened the car door and let in water. The prosecution claimed the father acted out of anger and vengeance after his marriage broke up.

Immersed in the high tension and drama of the Supreme Court of Victoria—'this house of grief'—Garner describes the proceedings with perspicacity and empathy. Her moving account penetrates to the heart of our justice system, masterfully exposing a theatre where argument is on display but emotions reign.