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Isobel on the Way to the Corner Shop, Amy Witting.

May 19, 2015

Isobel on the Way to the Corner Shop, by Amy Witting. Text Publishing Company, 2015.

Australian Women Writers

4 stars

A perceptive and entertaining novel by an Australian writer about a young woman learning to appreciate herself while recovering in a tuberculous sanitarium.

Amy Witting was the pen name of Joan Austral Fraser (1918-2001). She turned to writing after years of teaching and caring for her family. She wrote several novels displaying her ability to observe and sharply to describe those around her. Her writing was part of the introduction of urban stories to primarily rural Australian literature. I for Isobel was her best known novel, featuring a girl abused as a child growing up and seeking her own place in the world. Isobel on the Way to the Corner Shop follows this heroine as she tries to become a writer. Still struggling with her painful childhood, Isobel is a lonely, isolated young woman who wants to become a writer. At first she seems to be about to fall apart emotionally, unable to deal with the “dead space”. When she goes to buy some much needed food, she collapses on the street and is taken to a hospital where she is diagnosed with a high fever from tuberculous. She spends the ensuing months in a TB sanatorium where she interacts with a rich variety of staff and other patients. Gradually she realizes her own value and worth and heals from her emotional scars. Witting had also spent time in a TB sanitarium which gave her, like Isobel, a time of quiet and peace in which to grow. Both of the Isobel books were shortlisted for the Miles Franklin award, and Witting has received wide acclaim.

I strongly recommend this book to readers who like bright and telling detail about their fellow human beings. I look forward to finding and reading I for Isobel and her other works.

Thanks to Text Classics for reprinting Witting’s books and for sending me a copy of this one to read and review.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 19, 2015 6:50 pm

    Delighted that you have discovered Amy Witting, she was a great writer. You can find my reviews of the Isobel books here: http://anzlitlovers.com/category/who-to-find-here-anz-in-capitals/witting-amy/ but I will be pleased to see any reviews you write of her other books because I read them all before I started my blog and would love to see a greater presence for her online.

  2. May 20, 2015 9:01 am

    Yes, like Lisa I read Amy Witting before I started blogging. She was one of our successful late-bloomers. Glad you enjoyed the book.

  3. May 20, 2015 10:19 am

    Maybe the fact that these books are being reprinted will bring her to the attention of other readers. I hope so.

  4. May 22, 2015 3:53 am

    I was working at Penguin in Australia when I for Isobel hit my desk. I couldn’t stop reading, so I commissioned a reader’s report which combined with my total enthusiasm resulted in the book being published. Lovely to have a find like this in my life.

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