Published in 1989, I for Isobel follows a thoughtful young woman named Isobel Callaghan as she deals with family conflict, personal independence, and the awakening of her literary ambitions. This short, incisive novel is the defining work of...
"Amy Witting" is the pen name of Joan Austral Fraser, an Australian novelist, poet, and career educator. As a teenager, Witting published a poem in the Sydney Morning Herald; she continued to pursue her interests in literature and language as a student at the University of Sydney. Witting subsequently received a Diploma of Education; she worked as a teacher, married Les Levick, and eventually began publishing her adult work, starting with short stories in the 1950s.
To some extent, professional creative writing can be understood as a late-in-life pursuit for Witting: The Visit (1977), her first published novel, appeared when she was almost 60. The fate of I for Isobel (1989), which depicts the intellectual maturation of a young woman named Isobel Callaghan and is perhaps Witting's single best-known work, is even more unusual where timing is concerned. Though I for Isobel was completed a few years after the publication of The Visit, Witting could not find a publisher. Her rejections have been attributed in part to the caustic depiction of Isobel's mother, a character who can be unbelievable in her trifling cruelty. Yet I for Isobel is a novel that echoes reality: it is difficult not to see elements of Witting in the bookish Isobel, who like her creator attended convent schools and published poetry as a youth.
When it did appear, I for Isobel was deemed the work of a master writer. Witting would spend the final decade of her life in a flurry of literary activity, publishing short story collections, poetry collections, and the second Isobel book, Isobel on the Way to the Corner Shop (1999). This narrative picks up exactly where I for Isobel leaves off, and shows the young adult Isobel as a budding author. At the time of her death, Witting was at work on a third Isobel novel.