Review: The Women in Black

The Women in Black by Madeleine St. John
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: My local library – get your own copy from The Book Depository OR direct from Text Classics.

This book tells the lives of the Sales Assistants in Ladies’ Cocktail Frocks of the posh F.G. Goode department store. There are Patty, Fay, and Magda (a Continental in charge of Model Gowns –one of a kind gown available in one size only). Lisa (aka Lesley) had just done her Leaving Certificate (ie. HSC) and is looking to earn some pocket money during the Christmas / New Year’s period. These ladies are required to dress in the uniform black dress (cut in 1930s style).

They are heart-warming stories that tickle with endings to melt your heart and make you smile in remembrance. From Patty’s cold & childless marriage, Fay’s failures for love, to Lisa’s yearning to be grown up, there are anecdotes there for readers to identify with and sympathise. The chapters are very short and made this book to be very quick read (only a couple of hours) but really enjoyable. If you’re looking for a relaxing beach read – I’d totes recommend this book.

‘I’ll see,’ she said. ‘But Lisa! Lisa! How could you such a thing? To change your name like that, and not a word to me. It’s so sly.’
‘Oh Mum,’ said Lisa. ‘I didn’t mean to be sly, I didn’t. I just wanted – I wanted a real girl’s name. Lesley is a boy’s name.’
‘It’s a girl’s name too,’ said her mother. ‘It’s spelt differently for a boy.’
‘But it sounds the same,’ said Lisa, ‘ that’s what counts. I wanted a proper girl’s name, for when I grew up. I’ve been a child for so long now; I want to be grown up.’
‘Oh Lesley—‘ said her mother, ‘Lisa. If you only knew what being grown up can be like, you wouldn’t want to do it any faster than you have to.’

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5 thoughts on “Review: The Women in Black

  1. whisperinggums

    Nice review. I enjoyed the social history of the book – the migrants (including the food, and the Australian suspicion about their food), the slow edging towards feminism for women, etc. It’s been optioned for film – but some time ago. It would be a good movie I think.

    Reply
    1. Tien Post author

      I read the afterword which noted that there was a screenplay done which she approved prior to her death (she being a stickler about her works) but it never eventuated. She put an embargo that her works shall not be translated into any other languages though – as she won’t be around to check the translation (seem she was terribly picky about the French translation of one of her works).

      Reply
  2. Brona

    I loved this book. I found it very evocative – I have childhood memories of DJ’s that match the Goode’s experience and hot summer’s days in Martin Place.

    Reply

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