These are my absolute favourite novels, as of 2017…
On the Jellicoe Road, Melina Marchetta
I read this novel as a teenager, before any of Australian author Melina Marchetta’s other – more well-known – novels. I was recommended Jellicoe Road by a friend, but really couldn’t get into it at first. The characters were hard to grasp; the timeline was confusing; I couldn’t follow the plot. But my friend told me I had to persevere, and I’m so, so glad I did. Marchetta created my absolute favourite characters in this novel, and the effort of following a jumpy timeline paid off in the absolute best way. Since then, I’ve read Marchetta’s other novels and been equally impressed. While Looking for Alibrandi became her most well-known work, I think Jellicoe Road, Finnikin of the Rock, and Shame the Devil are infinitely more powerful. Marchetta has jumped genres from young adult to fantasy to crime, and I have loved every single sentence she’s ever written.
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
Sometimes writers experiment in fiction and it feels jarring. But in The Book Thief, Zusak creates a narrator out of Death. It could have easily been weird, but he absolutely nailed it by creating Death as a poetic, sensitive, caring soul. The story of Liesel is heartwarming but heart breaking. I found the mixed media throughout the story completely enhanced it, and was beautifully done. It’s inevitably a tragic story – based in Munich during World War II. But it doesn’t focus on the war so much as it focuses on the characters. I think this is a novel that’ll stay with me forever.
The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
Another heartbreaking novel (is there a pattern emerging, here?). The Kite Runner is based in Afghanistan, and follows the lives of two young boys from Kabul. I think the reason The Kite Runner stuck with me so much is because it deals with a main character who is not necessarily wholesome and good, but who experiences anguish and guilt. I found reading this story incredibly moving. When I watched the movie, I started crying in the opening scene, not because the opening scene is sad, but because I was already crying for what was to come. Hosseini really proved to me the power of having a character and narrator that’s not completely good or trustworthy.
The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion
I think I just really like heartbreaking novels. Masochism, maybe? But when authors can write about tragedy and show some glimmer of hope, or life, or happiness through the gloom, I’m enraptured. This is entirely what Joan Didion achieved in her memoir, which is horribly tragic in its premise – her husband dies while her daughter is in a coma. It’s the kind of tragedy beyond belief – how could something so terrible happen to one person? And to have it happen to Joan Didion, an incredible writer, who managed to write so beautifully about something so terrible. Didion completely inspired me to write more nonfiction pieces about my own life and experiences, although I haven’t had a life nearly as interesting (or heartbreaking) as she has.
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
Although this is technically a science fiction novel, it’s so unlike a science fiction novel that it’s not even worth claiming it as such. Never Let Me Go is an incredible piece of literary fiction, that happens to mention some science bits and pieces. But it’s magical in the way it turns a small scifi element into a plot advice that allows Ishiguro to write such a meaningful story about love and friendship. I imagine if I were to ever write anything scifi, this is the avenue I would go down – writing a novel with just a glimmer of “other”, but mostly focusing on the characters and story. I think Ishiguro nailed it.
Let me know, do you like any of the books in my list? What’s your absolute favourite novel? I’m always looking for recommendations!
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