I for Isobel

Born into a world without welcome, Isobel observes it as warily as an alien trying to pass for a native Her collection of imaginary friends includes the Virgin Mary and Sherlock Holmes Later she meets Byron, W H Auden and T S Eliot Isobel is not as much at ease with the flesh and blood people she meets, and least of all with herself, until a lucky encounter and a liBorn into a world without welcome, Isobel observes it as warily as an alien trying to pass for a native Her collection of imaginary friends includes the Virgin Mary and Sherlock Holmes Later she meets Byron, W H Auden and T S Eliot Isobel is not as much at ease with the flesh and blood people she meets, and least of all with herself, until a lucky encounter and a little detective work reveal her identity and her true situation in life.I for Isobel, a modern day Australian classic, was followed by Isobel on the Way to the Corner Shop, winner of the Age Book of the Year Award.
I for Isobel Born into a world without welcome Isobel observes it as warily as an alien trying to pass for a native Her collection of imaginary friends includes the Virgin Mary and Sherlock Holmes Later she meets

  • Title: I for Isobel
  • Author: Amy Witting
  • ISBN: 9780140126242
  • Page: 465
  • Format: Paperback
  • 1 thought on “I for Isobel”

    1. BOOK REVIEWED AS PART OF MY ONGOING QUEST TO READ ALL RECOMMENDED 2015 VCE TEXTS FOR VICTORIAN SCHOOLS (READ AT YOUR OWN PERIL) - I for Isobel is a perfect example of being in the category of "just because it won an award, doesn't mean it's a good book". I've read the other reviews raving about this book, and while I agree that it may have been a ground-breaking work from an author who struggled against the tides of anti-feminism and corporate male greed, I cannot fathom WHY this book was placed [...]

    2. The story opens just before Isobel Callaghan’s ninth birthday, when she anticipates correctly that there will be no presents for her this year, just like all her other birthdays. Her mother is a monster: cold, hard, spiteful and jealous. Poor little Isobel grows up forever wanting to please but unable to work out how.She takes solace in books, and too bad if the reader isn’t herself widely read – because there are countless perfectly apt allusions to works of literature great and small thr [...]

    3. This is a beautiful book. Well-written from beginning to end. Harrowing but hopeful. It is not far into the book before we realise we are witnessing a tale of surviving child abuse at the hands of parents. My only difficulty was in later stages the stream of consciousness was a little too disjointed at times, although it clearly was meant to be.

    4. I am deeply offended that nobody forced me to read this book earlier in my life. How dare they. It is SO brilliant. The female characters are so real and gorgeously written. Could not have loved it more.

    5. Obviously I am an idiot. I cannot understand the intentions of this novel. I for Isobel is a story about Isobel a girl who grew up with a not-really-there father, a horrible mother and an indifferent sister. Isobel eventually goes out into the world and discovers for herself. I’m guessing as I have no idea if that is what happened and if she came to terms with herself.The reason I bought this book is because we share the same name Isobel and although I could identify with Isobel’s character [...]

    6. If Body and Soul is a book about the experience of being a musician, I for Isobel, I imagine, is an apt description of the experience of being a writer. I thought the writing was beautiful, and enjoyed the novelty of reading something from an author who is considered one of Australia's great writers. And of course, I enjoyed seeing the unusual spelling of my daughter's name in print. :)Really, my only complaint is that it's too short! Isobel was such an interesting, sympathetic, beautiful charac [...]

    7. Ok - interesting. I've always wanted to read this cause of its pedigree and accolades. I enjoyed the first chapter, the feistiness of Isobel and her determination to get the better of the horrible situation but the subsequent chapters were not as delightful. There were lots of puzzles - how did the parents die? How old was Isobel when she became an orphan? Did she keep in touch with her sister? Where did the money come from? Sometimes the conversations she had with people were dense (cafe conver [...]

    8. Unusual, but intriguing. The story of the loneliness and marginalisation of a young girl called Isobel is mercifully short because it's quite intense. It's one of those novels where major events go unexplained, but at the same time add to the context of the story. I enjoyed it, but because I prefer a story that has well developed characters, an evolving plot and a climax, it wasn't really to my liking. In this book, the only character with any substance is Isobel, with all those who have contrib [...]

    9. Just another unhappy family, but this one has Isobel in it.At the beginning of I for Isobel, we are introduced to a mistreated child living with a mostly-passive and nearly-invisible father, a favoured older sister who is usually indifferent to her, and a mother who is an out-of-control wreck of an abuser. That is an accurate character statement, but it doesn’t tell you much about who Isobel is as a person. And what makes this book work is entirely dependent upon the person of Isobel: dreamy o [...]

    10. ‘I for Isobel’ and ‘Isobel on Her Way to the Corner Shop’ – the names suggest a series of slightly twee children’s books. Far from it. If I have a criticism of ‘I for Isobel’ it is that the first chapter is so perfect that it almost makes the rest of the book redundant. It is like a short story that Katherine Mansfield might have left in her desk drawer, for being too painful – even in the 1980s it was considered unsuitable for publication by some. It tells us pretty much every [...]

    11. As it was a book we compulsorily read, I was obliged to dislike it as much as possible. I felt Isobel was hard to relate to, she came with too many emotions at once, and then not enough in another situation. The end, however, offered a sense of closure and was neatly concluded, which is why it is rated two stars instead of one. I did like the story, the subtleness of epiphanies being turned into words, but really felt as though it was hard to get through because of Amy Witting's plain writing st [...]

    12. ANZLL discussion March '02.DymocksIsobel, born to a mentally cruel mother sets the backdrop for her quest for identity - self doubt,lacking in confidence, Isobel lives in books.Good book, particularly in the first 2/3rds. Ending became strange - esoteric and largely unfathomable for me. Very disappointing ending.Book discussion did not shed any further light on the dimensions of this book. We explored websites on Witting's writings. Hope to read more from this writer.

    13. We follow Isobel from when she is about to turn nine until she is nineteen. There is an awful repressive childhood that she shines through because her spirit is repressed but not destroyed. And she has the salvation of books. But she makes such an effort to behave in a way that doesn't draw attention. And there are lies that she can't help because her imagination keeps running away with her. When her parents die she moves into a boarding house - this seems like 1950s Sydney - and her life begins [...]

    14. Borrowed this from my grandma ages ago and finally decided to give it a go. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The character of Isobel really resonated with me.

    15. 3/5 ect. this is a school book, so I read it differently. as far as school books go this one was actually pretty good?

    16. A compelling, challenging, and sometimes disturbing read about a lonely, isolated and marginalised young girl who has grown up in a house without love. It's a story about how Isobel finds solace in books and the stories of others, and how she emerges as a writer herself. An engaging read but, for me, I would have liked to have seen a little more character development.

    17. Confession: Amy Witting’s I For Isobel (1989) has been on my shelf for ages and is the first work of hers I’ve read.The novel records a decade in the life of Isobel Callaghan, from unhappy nine to unfulfilled 19. Isobel is a loner, someone who struggles to discern the rules other people live by; she always feels offside, “like being a spy in a foreign country having to pass for a native” (116). As a child, she is treated with barely disguised contempt and hostility by her mother, who fav [...]

    18. My thanks for the Australian Women's Writers Challenge's Jan round-up of the classics (see: australianwomenwriters/201 )for mentioning Amy Witting. I felt like Isobel in her discovery of an author never before heard of.At the start I thought this book would be one of those old classics of life in post WWII Australia, a bit girlie, a bit flimsy. How wrong I was, this is an unique set of short stories tracing the life of Isobel, a complex character but with great observational powers and some of t [...]

    19. ‘When we come to write the history of Australian writing in the twentieth century, the strange case of Amy Witting will be there to haunt us. Here is a writer who not only has great gifts—the kind of expert and mimetic gifts that would impel instant recognition from someone who admired a fine-lined American naturalist like William Maxwell—but a realist who has an effortless immediacy and a compelling sense of drama that should have ensured the widest kind of appeal, the sort of appeal that [...]

    20. What a read, and I mean that in the worst possible way: I for Isobel remains, to me, a shoddily conceived of "My Brilliant Career", with all of the same targets shot for and none of them hit. I for Isobel, as a whole, haphazardly jumps around its barely explored plot in a way which cannot be excused as "complexity" or "nuance", but instead what can only be seen as poor planning. The narrative focusses upon the plight of an utterly unrelatable protagonist, in an attempt at sympathising with some [...]

    21. This was a novel that I had to read for school, and just like most assignment novels i found it less interesting because it was more of a chore than something that I could genuinely read to enjoy. In saying that, my review may be a bit clouded because of that. I for Isobel was certainly a book that was way out of my genre of books that I usually read and although it wasn't the worst book it wasn't completely captivating. There were certain aspects of the book that I found relatable along the lin [...]

    22. I was really gripped by 2/3 of this short book. The story of Isobel as a child then as a young adult was so disturbing, moving, fascinating and beautifully, sparely written. At the same time, other people, e.g. her mother, the people she worked with, the students from the cafe, provided interesting character studies to compare and contrast with Isobel. However, the ending left me flat, dissatisfied, disappointed. I wasn't expecting or looking for a Hollywood-style ending, but what was offered le [...]

    23. Thanks to The Natural Way of Things 's Charlotte Wood, I tried this book, as it's not written by an author I had ever heard of. I will now chase up the sequels, as I love the sparse underwritten style that delivers such amazing (IMHO) insights (scary!!)

    24. Excellent bildungsroman with female protagonist. This is the first book by Amy Witting that I have read and now I want to read everything she wrote. This story of a lonely, confused, creative girl gets better as it goes. I felt like the story and prose grew along with Isobel. I highly recommend this story.

    25. Inward-looking story about an abused girl's childhood and coming-of-age. It was on the VCE English list last year, however, I would not like to have studied or taught it unless I shared its pre-Vatican II Catholic background. I got a bit lost in its middle parts, but loved the ending.

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