Across 40 years of work, Helen Garner’s writing has been unsparing, in equal measure, of her subjects and of herself. Now, Bernadette Brennan has completed the first full-length study of Garner’s career, A Writing Life: Helen Garner and Her Work. This literary portrait maps the writer’s life against her work, including the previously unavailable National Library of Australia archive of her personal papers. Bernadette talks to Susan Wyndham about scrutinising the life of the sharpest self-scrutiniser.