Joe Cinque’s Consolation by Helen Garner – Book Review

Years ago, I saw the production based on this case, on this book, at the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne. It was hard work, because it’s a hard story. And a true story. Joe Cinque died of a heroin overdose, and his girlfriend at the time, Anu Singh, was charged with his murder. She had discussed killing him with friends before, but in a way that didn’t seem to raise any red flags, or at least, not enough to be reported to police. Joe Cinque’s Consolation is Helen Garner’s account of the trial, the case, interviews with family members and friends. It is an attempt for her to grapple with how this could happen, what it says about human nature.

The book was written in 2004. Joe Cinque’s death happened in 1997. I would be interested to hear from Helen Garner about whether her interpretation of events, or her responses to them, have change in the couple of decades since this was written. I felt that some of it feels dated, that the world we live in now has changed enough that perhaps the case would have been handled differently, perhaps Garner’s personal response might be different. But maybe not. As I read this, I felt sadness, anger, outrage and frustration with the courts, the case and sometimes, with Garner herself.