Biography of Amy Witting

"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.

Study Guides on Works by Amy Witting

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...