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Isobel on the Way to the Corner Store – Amy Witting

Isobel on the Way to the Corner Store - Amy Witting

Isobel on the Way to the Corner Store – Amy Witting

I have been reading if not writing much!

The weekend just gone was the Perth Writers Festival, so I have been busy attending sessions (Lionel Shriver, Jo Baker – the host of her session was dreadful tried to make it about her and not the author, Margaret Drabble, Game Changers – narrative and story telling in computer games and Richard Flanagan).

Hannah Kent (one of the authors attending the event) has been writing a journal for the Guardian.

Back to Isobel …

 I for Isobel is being re-published (by Text I think) and I was intrigued by a review I read, but couldn’t find a copy in any of my local book stores and the library only had Isobel on the Way to the Corner Store. The back implied it could be read independently, so I thought I would give it a go – and I will say now that it can be read on it’s own.

Here is the blurb …

Isobel Callaghan fears she is going mad. She has resigned from her job, and is trying to survive as a writer. With no food left in her rooming-house attic, she sets out to buy provisions from the corner shop. On the way she collapses, and to her surprise wakes up in hospital…

From there it’s a bumpy ride to the tuberculosis sanatorium, where Isobel becomes a member of a self-contained society. The god-like doctors and an assorted, less than compatible, cast of patients help Isobel to gain hard insights about herself, and about human nature, on the slow path to recuperation. While many of the experiences recounted in this memorable novel are grim, Amy Witting manages at the same time to be continually and compassionately funny. From her humour emerges the profound, ironic wisdom by which all her writing is distiguished.

This is a novel where not much happens – Isobel gets sick, she goes to hospital, she gets better and she leaves, but Isobel changes significantly. She realises she has value as a person and that she has a role to play in the wider world. It is about the impact (both good and bad) that others have on us and how we have to find/make space to live our lives well. It is beautifully written – with some hilarious moments Val’s (Isobel’s room mate) anger that Isobel won’t wake up in the morning, is knitting lace with 8 ply yarn! – and I found the treatment of tuberculosis fascinating – I wonder how it is treated now days?

If you like well-written novels with character development, then you will enjoy this novel.


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