Genevieve Gannon is an award-winning journalist and author of four novels. Her latest, The Mothers, is published by Allen & Unwin.
I defy anyone to read this book and not come away changed. Hersey was the first American correspondent to enter Hiroshima after the bomb and he laid out the horrors of war, as seen through the eyes of survivors, in the narrative style of a novel. I read Hiroshima as a journalism student and it changed my understanding of what it means to bear witness as a reporter.
Sittenfeld’s heroine Lee Fiora spends much of the novel in a state of adolescent agony that made me laugh and cringe as I tried to block out memories of my own teenage years. The awkward, yearning, aspirational Lee lands at a prestigious boarding school on a scholarship and quickly learns that her grades will not be enough to help her survive the cutthroat social scene. What really struck me was Sittenfeld’s ability to make a social situation as tense as a scene involving a nuclear warhead and a ticking clock. Prep became a New York Times best-seller after a swag of publishers passed on it, so it was also a lesson in perseverance for me as the rejection letters piled up in my desk drawer.
Middlesex is one of those books that has morphed from being a novel I own into something more like a friend. The sprawling family saga spans three generations and is so full of wonderful characters that the first time I finished it I found myself missing them, and wondering what they were up to.
Boss of the Pool
This book is representative for the Klein books that consumed my childhood weekends. From Hating Alison Ashley to the Blue, Uncoloured Weather series, I spent many hours hidden away with one of Klein’s novels and a mug of Milo from the age of seven to 13. Boss of the Pool stands out because it was one of the first books to make me cry, but all of Klein’s books helped me discover the power of storytelling. I was also a huge fan of Bev Cleary’s Ramona series for the same reason, but preferred Klein’s characters because of their Australian slang.