I is for Isobel—Amy Witting

When the next book on my TBR pile is by an Australian author, female, and set in Australia, I pour the coffee, grab the book and go back to bed. I is for Isobel is such a beautiful classic, a little bit sad, a little bit real, at times funny, and a lot lovely to read. Isobel’s attachment to words is fun and fascinating.

She turned her head to look at him, remote in sleep: delicate sallow oblong face, fluted upper lip, light-brown crimped hair drifting across his forehead…listen, you don’t have to paint his portrait.

Doctor, I have this problem. Some people count lamp posts. I describe them. You don’t think that’s a problem? You should try it sometimes, like five lamp posts one after the other, a word picture of each, to be handed in nowhere at the end of the day…

I is for Isobel, Amy Witting. 1990

Wake In Fright, by Kenneth Cook – poetry within.


This gorgeous Australian Classic was published in 1961.  Gorgeous because it’s simple but beautifully written.  Reviews of the book popped up here and there recently after the movie was made, but nowhere did I read about how poetic the writing is (missed it somehow). It’s a lovely surprise. There is poetry in rhyming of words, rhyming of sounds within words, repetition of sounds, and also  rhythm in the paragraphs. Seriously is a treat of a book. Love it.

‘Eventually the sun relinquished its torturing hold and the plains became brown and purple and gold and then black as the sky was pierced by a million bursts of flickering light from dispassionate worlds unthinkable distances apart. The homesteads were just yellow patches of light in window frames, but the train driver sounded his whistle just the same and, in the darkness, there were children waving just the same.’ p 13

‘Men wanting a drink behind you there, Jean. Just a minute mate, and the girl will serve you. Two schooners? Right! Coming up. Four middies over here, Mary. All right, boys, just a minute and we’ll get to you. Hello there, Jack, what’re you having?’ False good fellowship struggled with satisfied avarice to make up the expression on his hot, wet, mobile face; and it was even money which was the more successful. p17

‘It struck Grant that this was a curious conversation to be having with a constable who was drinking in a hotel while in uniform. Fairly obviously the police were reasonably tolerant. There was nothing to be gained in labouring the point.’ p 19

‘Grant was caught in a rush of visual effects – black shadows, coloured spots, the great white beam, the cigarette of the man in the front seat, strange little glints from shiny leaves, the heavy darkness of the scrub, all held and contained by the hovering curve of the black, black, purple black sky which only the stars could penetrate.’ p 83

It’s what you might call an Australian yarn about heat, beer and kangaroos, but also the story takes you, with John Grant,  through some trauma and brings you to that moment of appreciating life as it is.

‘He looked with satisfaction at the glass in the window. Lately he had developed a deep affection for the normal, simple trappings of being alive. Wood, and paint, and smells, and the feeling of cloth, and the taste of food, the comfort of  cigarettes and glass – now glass was a wonderful thing…’ p134

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