Our first book of the year was an almost-classic Australian novel, Amy Witting's Isobel on her way to the corner shop. The second in what was expected to be a trilogy about Isobel, this novel won The Age Book of the Year in 2000, and was shortlisted for that year's Miles Franklin Literary Award and Nita B. Kibble Literary Award.
Born Joan Austral Fraser, Amy Witting is a pseudonym devised from a promise she made to herself to "never give up on consciousness', not be unwitting, but to always remain 'witting'".
The novel is set in Sydney and the Blue Mountains in the early 1950s.
As always, we started with our ...
- Found it such a joy to read, to be in the life of this resilient, witty but still developing young woman. Loved the insights into humanity provided through setting it in the confined world of a sanatorium which contains a wide gamut of humanity - patients of a disease that doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor, and a variety of doctors, nurses and visitors.
- Found it tedious to start with, but as more characters were introduced, particularly with Dr Wang and the poetry discussions, started to like it, and by the end was enjoying it.
- Enjoyed it from beginning, including when she should she was mad, and enjoyed the "scattergun of insightful things" said throughout.
- Really enjoyed the novel, finding nearly all the characters captivating, and impressed by Witting's powers of observation.
- Found it light, fun, after just reading Middlemarch, but on the fence overall.
- Took a little while to get into it, particularly the "dithering around at beginning", but enjoyed the good range of characters.
- Read it a few weeks ago and it left no impression. Had forgotten most of it. It wasn't long, and a bit ho-hum.
- Enjoyed it, and was drawn in quite quickly. Found it full of insights, and thinks there's "lots there". Reread the introduction by Maria Takolander, and felt that elevated the book.
- Took a little while to get into it, but then found it immersive, and enjoyed keeping up with Isobel. It's an observational book, providing an insightful look into a young woman finding her value. (Thought the first book, I for Isobel, was a knock out. It's more shocking, and poignant, and makes clear why she had no self worth.)
a parcel. She didn't mind being a parcel. It was easy.
I have to live as if...I have to assume that I have some importance to other people. I have to live accordingly. I have to step out into space.
Most of us enjoyed the setting, both in terms of the history of medicine, hospitals and tuberculosis sanitoriums, and regarding similarities and differences with hospitals today. Our nurse member who loves hospitals, and others of us who had experienced hospitals, found much that was true still today. We talked a little about the problem of institutionalisation and also about Isobel's awareness of the unspoken rules and etiquette involved, the dos and don'ts.