Books that changed me

Being a fan of the regular column, ‘Books that changed me’ in The Sunday Age, I was delighted to be invited to submit my own list, which I managed to whittle down from around 400 to four. This post originally appeared in The Age online on August 24, 2019 — 11.45pm.

Angela Savage is the director of the Writers Victoria and author of four novels. her latest, Mother of Pearl, is published by Transit Lounge.

The Magic Brush
Jane Carruth; illus., Kei Wakana
A gift from a beloved aunt for my fourth birthday, this “Japanese tale of long ago” tells of Mahrien, who is given a beautiful paintbrush that makes everything he draws come to life. Just as Mahrien’s brush brought his imagination to life, so the story sparked mine. While I dreamed of having a magic brush, at some point, I realised I could bring things to life with words. The Magic Brush opened my four-year-old mind to the power of art.

Angela Savage says reading The English Patient was an eye-opening experience.
Angela Savage says reading The English Patient was an eye-opening experience.Credit: Suzanne Phoenix

The English Patient
Michael Ondaatje
While I loved the story of four disparate characters brought together at a bombed-out Italian villa in the late stages of the Second World War, the real power of this novel was its insights into racism. There’s a scene toward the end that was the proverbial light-bulb moment for me, when Kip, the Sikh British Army sapper, learns of the bombing of Hiroshima. As the scene is entirely missing from the film version of The English Patient, you’ll have to read the book to see what I mean.

The Poisonwood Bible
Barbara Kingsolver
The kind of novel I aspire to write. Told from multiple viewpoints, this moving and powerful story set in the Belgian Congo sheds light on history, politics and culture through an intimate family saga. In her author’s note, Barbara Kingsolver says, “I spent nearly 30 years waiting for the wisdom and maturity to write this book”. As a writer, I am greatly encouraged by this admission and the idea that good writing takes time.

Simone Lazaroo
The first novel I read by Simone Lazaroo, who swiftly became one of my favourite Australian authors, Sustenance is set in Bali and tells the story of a group of hotel workers and guests brought together in violent circumstances. The novel poses questions about how vulnerable people damaged by insensitivity and exploitation can seek redress, while reflecting more broadly on grief and hope. Reading Sustenance was like a masterclass in fiction writing. It has inspired my own writing, both in terms of structure and themes.

What are four books that changed you?

About Angela Savage

Angela Savage is a Melbourne writer, who has lived and travelled extensively in Asia. She won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript, and the Scarlet Stiletto Award short story award. Her latest novel is, Mother of Pearl, published by Transit Lounge. Angela holds a PhD in Creative Writing, is former CEO of Writers Victoria, and currently works as CEO of Public Libraries Victoria.
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11 Responses to Books that changed me

  1. SD says:

    Hi, Angela,

    1. The Chronicles of Narnia (by C.S. Lewis) didn’t so much change me as formed me. I was so disappointed when as an adult I recognised their close parallels to the Christian story. I still think you can enjoy them for their own sake while abhorring Christian ideology.
    2. Beloved by Toni Morrison. Now that book changed me.
    3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Though I now think teenaged girls should be banned from reading the Brontës for precisely that reason.
    4. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner.
    I can’t say more, because to paraphrase that famous quote, “Trying to talk about The Sound and the Fury is like dancing about architecture”.



    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post Angela. I’ve read two of those and you can probably guess what they are – the Ondaatje and Kingsolver. Loved them both.

    I’m not going to answer your question here because I might do my own post. I have three in my head, but the fourth? Which one. It’s very hard to whittle it to four isn’t it. Which part of your life did a book change?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is hard to choose only four, Sue. Because I was being interviewed as a writer, I chose books that had an impact on me as a writer: I consider these books among my ‘mentor texts’. In addition, Barbara Kingsolver inspires me as a person as well as a writer.


      • Haha Angela. I have drafted and scheduled my response for next month while I’m travelling (I like to keep the blog a bit alive when I’m otherwise engaged.) Anyhow, I said exactly that in my post because of course I point back to you- ie that you chose books relating to your life as a writer! Glad I was right though you made it pretty clear!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Margot Kinberg says:

    Such a fascinating post, Angela. And you have some excellent choices, there, too. One of the things I find interesting is that they’re different sorts of books; I like the variety. To, me, that’s one of the finest compliments that one can pay to any author: ‘Your book changed me.’

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Four books that changed me | Whispering Gums

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