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Sydney in the late 1950s. On the second floor of the famous F.G. Goode department store, in Ladies' Cocktail Frocks, the women in black are girding themselves for the Christmas rush. Lisa is the new Sales Assistant (Temporary). Across the floor and beyond the arch, she is about to meet the glamorous Continental refugee, Magda, guardian of the rose-pink cave of Model Gowns. Sydney in the late 1950s. On the second floor of the famous F.G. Goode department store, in Ladies' Cocktail Frocks, the women in black are girding themselves for the Christmas rush. Lisa is the new Sales Assistant (Temporary). Across the floor and beyond the arch, she is about to meet the glamorous Continental refugee, Magda, guardian of the rose-pink cave of Model Gowns. With the lightest touch and the most tender of comic instincts, Madeleine St John conjures a vanished summer of innocence. The Women in Black>/i> is a classic.


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Sydney in the late 1950s. On the second floor of the famous F.G. Goode department store, in Ladies' Cocktail Frocks, the women in black are girding themselves for the Christmas rush. Lisa is the new Sales Assistant (Temporary). Across the floor and beyond the arch, she is about to meet the glamorous Continental refugee, Magda, guardian of the rose-pink cave of Model Gowns. Sydney in the late 1950s. On the second floor of the famous F.G. Goode department store, in Ladies' Cocktail Frocks, the women in black are girding themselves for the Christmas rush. Lisa is the new Sales Assistant (Temporary). Across the floor and beyond the arch, she is about to meet the glamorous Continental refugee, Magda, guardian of the rose-pink cave of Model Gowns. With the lightest touch and the most tender of comic instincts, Madeleine St John conjures a vanished summer of innocence. The Women in Black>/i> is a classic.

30 review for The Women In Black

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    [2.75] I expected Women in Black to be the perfect diversion during a stressful week. It was not. Witty and weightless, there was not enough substance here to anchor me to the pages.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sawsan

    One of the loveliest novels i've read lately portray life at Sydney in 1959, through women of different ages and background working as sellers in a department store -where they must wear black dresses- the writer reveal their lives, relationships, feelings and dreams, depicting the changes in woman life through the new thoughts and perspectives of young generations beautifully written first novel by the Australian writer Madeleine St John

  3. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    The Women in Black is set in a the Women's Frock section of a 1950s Sydney department store where the sales assistants must all wear black dresses. Patty, Fay and Miss Jacobs (whose Christian name we never learn) all work in 'Ladies' Cocktail' while Slovenian emigre Magda rules the exclusive 'Model Gowns' section. Arriving into this refined environment as a summer casual is bright-eyed Lisa (Lesley to her parents) who has just left school and is waiting for the results of her leaving exams. It's The Women in Black is set in a the Women's Frock section of a 1950s Sydney department store where the sales assistants must all wear black dresses. Patty, Fay and Miss Jacobs (whose Christian name we never learn) all work in 'Ladies' Cocktail' while Slovenian emigre Magda rules the exclusive 'Model Gowns' section. Arriving into this refined environment as a summer casual is bright-eyed Lisa (Lesley to her parents) who has just left school and is waiting for the results of her leaving exams. It's amazing that this debut novel was written as recently as 1993 when St John was in her 50s. She would have been a teenager in the 1950s and almost certainly shopped in similar stores herself (in fact it's likely that the store in the novel is modeled on the Australian David Jones department stores). Despite being a private, reclusive woman and having lived in London for 25y before writing this she has caught the feel and essence of the place and time very well. Women were expected to leave school (although Lisa dreams her exam results will be good enough to win her a scholarship to University), work for a few years until they can marry and then stay home to look after the house, cook meals on time for her husband and raise children. Any woman failing to do so was pitied by her friends as Patty is for being childless and 28 year old Fay for being unmarried. Magda, as a post war refugee along with her husband Stefan is considered quite exotic and Lisa is thrilled to be taken under her wing both at work and outside. Through Magda a whole new world of possibilities opens up for conservatively brought up Lisa. This book is quite a delight, full of humour and sharp insight. This kindle version also has an informative foreward by director Bruce Beresford, her contemporary at Sydney University, and an obituary by her publisher Christopher Potter.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    Geez, I dunno. What am I missing? I think this is possibly the first time I have ever been bamboozled and swept off a book's trail by its foreword. Coming to this book knowing nothing about Madeleine St John, I decided to read the foreword written by the film director, Bruce Beresford, who was Madeleine's class compatriot at Sydney University in the early 1960's. I became interested in the author herself - who was this difficult woman whose tastes went in all directions - Christianity, Buffy the Geez, I dunno. What am I missing? I think this is possibly the first time I have ever been bamboozled and swept off a book's trail by its foreword. Coming to this book knowing nothing about Madeleine St John, I decided to read the foreword written by the film director, Bruce Beresford, who was Madeleine's class compatriot at Sydney University in the early 1960's. I became interested in the author herself - who was this difficult woman whose tastes went in all directions - Christianity, Buffy the Vampire Slayer - and what was it about her and her past which made her so quick to cut off friends and family who did her wrong? Leaving the forward then I was descended into a pile of fluff, from which I somehow just couldn't find myself being able to muster up the energy to care enough about any of these characters. Reviews by others have left me a little bewildered. While Hilary Mantel found it a "pocket masterpiece," and Lee Tulloch devoured it in one sitting as a "delicious meringue" and Bruce Beresford thought it a "comic masterpiece", I found it a sort of sweet silhouette of the Sydney of that time but ultimately, really didn't care all that much. Sigh. What am I missing? Maybe I just need to lighten the hell up :)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This slim volume is a sheer delight! And set, coincidentally just before Christmas and the New Year - in 1950s, Sydney, Australia. Everyone lives happily ever after - and I love it. I see nothing wrong with happy endings, in fact the whole book is joie de vivre. Anyone can check my French - it's not my forte. Highly recommended - focussing on the lives of four and more women: Magda an emigre from Slovenia, Lisa Miles, our protagonist, Fay, Patty, and Miss Jacobs, - the ladies in black at F.G. Goo This slim volume is a sheer delight! And set, coincidentally just before Christmas and the New Year - in 1950s, Sydney, Australia. Everyone lives happily ever after - and I love it. I see nothing wrong with happy endings, in fact the whole book is joie de vivre. Anyone can check my French - it's not my forte. Highly recommended - focussing on the lives of four and more women: Magda an emigre from Slovenia, Lisa Miles, our protagonist, Fay, Patty, and Miss Jacobs, - the ladies in black at F.G. Goode's department store. It tackles a number of difficult, big subjects, but so quietly and unobtrusively that one hardly notices. Sadly Ms. St John wrote only four novels, but I will be checking them all out. The publisher must also be given a quick note of salutation - "Text Classics" - a small, independent publisher, based in Melbourne; they won "Leading Edge Books Small Publisher of the Year" in 2018. One to look out for I think. And an introduction by Bruce Beresford (Australian film director of Driving Miss Daisy, Breaker Morant.) Happy Reading!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    An interim book, light-hearted and fun.

  7. 5 out of 5

    MaryG2E

    An Aussie classic from Text Publishing, The Women In Black by Madeleine St. John is a great read. The musical adaptation of the book, Ladies in Black is playing in Melbourne at present to enthusiastic audiences. This delightful novel is set in the Women’s clothing department of a major Sydney department store in the 1950s. The story is character-driven, rather than having an elaborate action-oriented plot. It starts rather slow and low-key, but gradually builds into a most entertaining tale. At f An Aussie classic from Text Publishing, The Women In Black by Madeleine St. John is a great read. The musical adaptation of the book, Ladies in Black is playing in Melbourne at present to enthusiastic audiences. This delightful novel is set in the Women’s clothing department of a major Sydney department store in the 1950s. The story is character-driven, rather than having an elaborate action-oriented plot. It starts rather slow and low-key, but gradually builds into a most entertaining tale. At first I was unsure about its tone, but came to realise fairly quickly that it is a gentle satire, which pokes a benign stick at the mores and manners of 1950s Australian society. Although there is no political content at all, this book is set slap bang in the middle of the conservative era of Prime Minister Robert Menzies, when the country was basking in the benefits of The Long Boom, and consumerism was taking off following the austerities of WW2. The portrayal of the fairly typical Aussie shop assistants from the 1950s is very well done. Similarly the portrayal of the European migrant woman, Magda, and her husband Stefan, and their friend Rudi. The author has a fine ear for the nuanced language of the respectable working class, as exemplified by the women working in Ladies’ Cocktail Frocks, Fay, Patty and Miss Jacobs, and their families. In sharp contrast she unfolds the personality and lifestyle of glamorous immigrant Magda, who is in charge of the most prestigious department at Goodes, the Model Gowns section. Only the wealthiest matrons of Sydney’s smartest suburbs can afford to buy their frocks from this department, and Magda’s charm and European panache ensure that she closes the deals and delivers the profits to her employers. The black-clad women of Cocktail Frocks are not amused… Into this interesting environment arrives a sweet, naive school-leaver undertaking a holiday job. Lisa has many talents but lacks self-confidence, thanks in part to the influence of her unambitious parents. While she manages to establish a niche with the ladies in their black work outfits, it is Magda who takes Lisa under her wing and introduces her to a world of opportunities. Already struggling to shake off the shackles of suburban Sydney life, Lisa relishes Magda’s assistance and takes many positive steps to move beyond the hidebound world of her childhood. The other key characters in the Cocktail Frocks section of Goodes, Fay and Patty, both experience metamorphoses of their own, as the author casts a speculative eye over the prevailing attitudes to love, sex, marriage and domestic life. It is interesting to read the reactions of friends and family when the marriage of Patty and Frank experiences a crisis. Similar to Lisa, Fay finds a refreshing change from Australian males when she mixes with Magda’s “Continental” gentlemen. She blossoms in the new environment, as does Lisa, and their futures are full of promise. Nice to have a book with a genuine happy ending. 4★s

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dale Harcombe

    This is a charming novel that gives a picture of Sydney in the 1950s and the salesladies that wore black dresses. I was surprised to find it was written in 1993. I thought it might have been earlier than that. It’s not compelling reading but it is quietly enjoyable. I loved the cast of characters with Patty, Fay, Magda and her husband Stefan and Lesley who changes her name to Lisa. They all work in the frock section (yes they were called frocks not dresses back then) except for Magda who has cha This is a charming novel that gives a picture of Sydney in the 1950s and the salesladies that wore black dresses. I was surprised to find it was written in 1993. I thought it might have been earlier than that. It’s not compelling reading but it is quietly enjoyable. I loved the cast of characters with Patty, Fay, Magda and her husband Stefan and Lesley who changes her name to Lisa. They all work in the frock section (yes they were called frocks not dresses back then) except for Magda who has charge of the Model Gowns section. Lisa is the young one of the group having recently finished her HSC and waiting on results. It covers a lot including family dynamics and attitudes of the times especially towards marriage and those from European countries. The book has occasions of a wry humour and is basically a feel good read. For anyone interested in how far society has come over the last 50-60 years this gives a pretty good indication, when things like salami are considered exotic and where going to uni was seen as an option for a select group. Maybe I was just in the mood for something light and nostalgic but I really enjoyed this. I admit I didn’t read the foreword by Bruce Beresford but went straight to the story but I did linger to read more about Madeleine St John’s life at the end. Worth reading if only to see the changes in Australian society since then, but I enjoyed the characters and sharing their lives as well in this pleasant interlude.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews

    *https://mrsbbookreviews.wordpress.com It’s all about the frocks, the black frocks specifically in The Women in Black, a novel penned by Madeleine St John in 1993. My issue of this novel was published more recently in 2018, to coincide with the feature film production of Madeleine St John’s cult Australian novel. I truly adored this amiable coming of age tale, set against the clear backdrop of Sydney 1959, with the focus being on the private lives of a number of black frocked F.G. Goode’s departm *https://mrsbbookreviews.wordpress.com It’s all about the frocks, the black frocks specifically in The Women in Black, a novel penned by Madeleine St John in 1993. My issue of this novel was published more recently in 2018, to coincide with the feature film production of Madeleine St John’s cult Australian novel. I truly adored this amiable coming of age tale, set against the clear backdrop of Sydney 1959, with the focus being on the private lives of a number of black frocked F.G. Goode’s department store employees. The Women in Black takes the reader to a renowned department store in Sydney in the 1950s. To assist with the Christmas rush, a teenage girl named Lisa has been employed as a sales assistant to cover the busy summer holiday period. Lisa is assigned to the women’s fashion department, where she is acquainted with another employee, who will change her life forever. Magda is in charge of the cocktail dress section and she takes Lisa under her wing. Together Lisa, Magda and the department store crew negotiate a time of change for women, but also continued suppression. They learn about the value of love, life and friendship in this elegant Australian classic. I committed the ultimate book sin with this novel. Despite the fact that I purchased and intended to read The Women in Black when the film was released back in September 2018, it sat unread on my shelves until I discovered the feature film on my streaming service. I fell in love with the movie, and then the book. This was a rare case of a novel and the accompanying film being equally charming! At its heart, The Women in Black is a wonderful coming of age story that I will not forget. Set against an Australian stage, this book represents a timeless reminder of our nostalgic country of yesteryear. We bear witness to the personal growth and metamorphosis of young Lisa, a temporary sales assistant at the department store in which this novel is set. I had a great deal of time and respect for Lisa, she was a special soul that touched my heart! I loved overseeing her journey and when she emerged as a young woman with so much promise I was overjoyed! Along with Lisa there are a great set of characters who populate this novel. From Magda, the European immigrant who shows Lisa the ropes at work, to dreamy Fay and tolerant Patty, I loved them all! Madeleine St John’s prose is quite cordial at times, but I admired this gracious approach. There are moments of humour and clarity embedded within the pages of this book, that will spark your attention from the start to the close of the novel. There are some keen eyed observations made on Australia’s society and attitudes of the late 1950s which visibly moved me. St John takes us back to a time when Australia was a new and lucky country. The book is occupied by references to ‘reffos’ European refugees, who were seeking solace in Australia after the war. Through young Lisa’s experience, our eyes are opened to the limitations placed on women to strive for a tertiary education. Lisa’s own father rejects his daughter’s aspirations, which really got under my skin, but I do feel St John accurately captured the feeling of this time. In a number of the other female characters we see women pining for a deeper sense of love, that is more about mutual respect. Change was clearly on the cards for Australian women of this time, but they were still battling against the odds. The Women in Black presents the reader with a spellbinding journey, filled with reverence. This is a story of personal discovery and self-actualisation, with startling moments of subtle humour, gentle accord and tender friendships. I dearly loved this one and I will ensure that The Women in Black remains firmly on my keeps shelf. I may even indulge in re-read, which is a rare case for me! If you have a copy of the 2018 feature film tie in, the introduction supplied by Bruce Beresford, the director of the movie, provides an interesting insight into the long process of launching this much loved novel onto the silver screen. Heartfelt, insightful and honest, it was an excellent accompaniment to this exceptional novel. The Women in Black is book #1 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge

  10. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Fitzgerald

    I finished this in one sitting; it was a perfect book to read while on vacation! This is a good book for fans of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” t.v. series, as one reviewer pointed out. Just wish there would have been sequels. Sadly, the author passed away in 2006.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kavita

    Set in 1950s Sydney, The Women In Black is a charming slice of life in the lives of the women working at the Goode Department Store, famous for its ladies clothing and accessories. Slice of life doesn't often work well with books as it does with films (so many Japanese films wouldn't exist without this genre!) but this is a great exception. St. John knows how to do this. The book charmingly portrays life in the 1950s without being too harsh. There is an underlying note of despair in these women b Set in 1950s Sydney, The Women In Black is a charming slice of life in the lives of the women working at the Goode Department Store, famous for its ladies clothing and accessories. Slice of life doesn't often work well with books as it does with films (so many Japanese films wouldn't exist without this genre!) but this is a great exception. St. John knows how to do this. The book charmingly portrays life in the 1950s without being too harsh. There is an underlying note of despair in these women but they are also standing at the cusp of change, both in their own lives and in society. You can sense the hope for the future. The inflow of European immigrants into the country, diluting its Englishness, is also a much-welcome change. Asian immigrants would follow the in next decade. It's an interesting look at a changing society. There is no plot - the characters are the plot. There is sixteen year old Lesley Mills, who likes to be called Lisa and wants to go to university. There is Patty Williams, whose relationship with her husband has lain in a rut for years. There is Fay, a woman on the lookout for love and marriage. There is the glamorous Magda, who takes in Lisa and tries to give her confidence. The book revolves mainly around these women, but there are also delightful minor characters, such as Magda's Hungarian friend, Rudi, and Lisa's devoted mother. For a book with basically not much plot to speak of, The Women In Black manages to uphold interest because these characters are so, so real in a very nice way. The Women In Black is ultimately fluff, but it's wonderful fluff.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

    The Women in Black is first of only four published novels by Madeleine St John. This edition includes a perceptive introduction by her contemporary, Bruce Beresford, and an obituary by Christopher Potter. Under the guise of a story about the staff of the Ladies’ Cocktail section at F.G. Goode’s (the Women in Black), St John takes us back to Sydney in the late 1950’s. St John manages, with very few words, to bring back the feel of those times, the ideas and attitudes, in full living colour. Nosta The Women in Black is first of only four published novels by Madeleine St John. This edition includes a perceptive introduction by her contemporary, Bruce Beresford, and an obituary by Christopher Potter. Under the guise of a story about the staff of the Ladies’ Cocktail section at F.G. Goode’s (the Women in Black), St John takes us back to Sydney in the late 1950’s. St John manages, with very few words, to bring back the feel of those times, the ideas and attitudes, in full living colour. Nostalgia overtakes the reader at the mention of prices in guineas, frocks (as opposed to dresses), men and women in hats, shops closing at 5.30, local calls for four pennies, the school Intermediate and Leaving certificate results posted at the newspaper offices………the list goes on. With mention of “reffos” and “continentals”, and salami as a novel food, Sydney of the late 50’s is perfectly depicted. The dialogue is so authentic, it has the reader alternately laughing out loud and cringing (“……don’t say anythink……”). St John’s characters are convincing and easy to love. It was such fun to be a fly on the wall at F.G.Goode’s (which was fairly obviously David Jones) and how lovely to realise that those formidable Women in Black were real people with the same insecurities as the rest of us! The Women in Black has been aptly described as an Australian Classic. It truly was a delight to read!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

    The Women in Black (later titled Ladies in Black) is first of only four published novels by Madeleine St John. This edition includes a perceptive introduction by her contemporary, Bruce Beresford, and an obituary by Christopher Potter. The audio version is read by Deidre Rubenstein. Under the guise of a story about the staff of the Ladies’ Cocktail section at F.G. Goode’s (the Women in Black), St John takes us back to Sydney in the late 1950’s. St John manages, with very few words, to bring back The Women in Black (later titled Ladies in Black) is first of only four published novels by Madeleine St John. This edition includes a perceptive introduction by her contemporary, Bruce Beresford, and an obituary by Christopher Potter. The audio version is read by Deidre Rubenstein. Under the guise of a story about the staff of the Ladies’ Cocktail section at F.G. Goode’s (the Women in Black), St John takes us back to Sydney in the late 1950’s. St John manages, with very few words, to bring back the feel of those times, the ideas and attitudes, in full living colour. Nostalgia overtakes the reader at the mention of prices in guineas, frocks (as opposed to dresses), men and women in hats, shops closing at 5.30, local calls for four pennies, the school Intermediate and Leaving certificate results posted at the newspaper offices………the list goes on. With mention of “reffos” and “continentals”, and salami as a novel food, Sydney of the late 50’s is perfectly depicted. The dialogue is so authentic, it has the reader alternately laughing out loud and cringing (“……don’t say anythink……”). St John’s characters are convincing and easy to love. It was such fun to be a fly on the wall at F.G.Goode’s (which was fairly obviously David Jones) and how lovely to realise that those formidable Women in Black were real people with the same insecurities as the rest of us! The Women in Black has been aptly described as an Australian Classic. It truly was a delight to read!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Great book tie-in with the movie! I saw the movie, Ladies in Black first a few weeks ago before Christmas and absolutely loved it. Australian drama at its best. There are a few different intricacies in the novel compared to the movie. This is a pocket-masterpiece that goes well with the movie. Don't miss the introduction by Bruce Beresford, the director of Ladies in Black. I'm definitely going to get the movie soon now I've heard it's out on dvd. Beautifully filmed and acted. The book and the movie Great book tie-in with the movie! I saw the movie, Ladies in Black first a few weeks ago before Christmas and absolutely loved it. Australian drama at its best. There are a few different intricacies in the novel compared to the movie. This is a pocket-masterpiece that goes well with the movie. Don't miss the introduction by Bruce Beresford, the director of Ladies in Black. I'm definitely going to get the movie soon now I've heard it's out on dvd. Beautifully filmed and acted. The book and the movie go well together. See the movie and read the book. Light-hearted, down to earth and very Australian with just a touch of European.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Canadian Reader

    This book revolves around a small group of women employed in the “cocktail frocks” section of a high-end 1950s Sydney department store. The women have little in common beyond their employment and the fairly limited gender roles available to them. “Little, thin, [and] straw-coloured” with a “worn-out face and stiff-looking perm,” Mrs. Patty Williams is in her early thirties and married to the disappointing Frank, “a bastard of the standard issue.” People wonder why it is that at her age she hasn’ This book revolves around a small group of women employed in the “cocktail frocks” section of a high-end 1950s Sydney department store. The women have little in common beyond their employment and the fairly limited gender roles available to them. “Little, thin, [and] straw-coloured” with a “worn-out face and stiff-looking perm,” Mrs. Patty Williams is in her early thirties and married to the disappointing Frank, “a bastard of the standard issue.” People wonder why it is that at her age she hasn’t yet produced children. Her GP feels sorry for her: “a woman well into her child-bearing years with no baby to nurse: it was unnatural.” The innocent-eyed, copiously made-up, Miss Fay Baines, 28, had dreams of being a show girl. Before coming to Goode’s Department Store, she worked as a cocktail waitress. Never seeming to meet the sort of man she longs for—one who would desire her as well as respect her—she’s had a string of short-term relationships which come to nothing. She’s wonderful with children, and really wants to marry. Miss Jacobs, who does the dress alterations at Goode’s, is a gray-haired, steel-spectacled spinster, stout, swarthy-faced, and seemingly in her fifties. She is a complete mystery; no one knows a thing about her, not even her Christian name. The floor manager, Mr. Ryder finds her as an object of pity, which is strange in a way, as she is kind, brisk, efficient, and seems far less discontent than either Patty or Fay. One woman gets a little more attention than the others: Magda, a stylish, cultured Slovenian immigrant in her forties, who presides over the magically lit and tastefully furnished model gowns department. Model gowns are one-of-a kind fancy dresses for special occasions. You have to be well-to-do to purchase one of these pricy items. Given her status running this department, Magda gets to wear her own black dresses with artful accessories, unlike the other female employees who are supplied with black crepe 1930s-style frock-uniforms. Needless to say, she is resented by the other women. “Svelte and full-bosomed” Magda is the most lively of St. John’s characters, and the one who most moves the limited plot of this character-driven novel forward. She and her Hungarian husband, Stefan, introduce Fay to a suave thirty-something Hungarian man who is part of their wide “Continental” (i.e., European) social network. She also takes “Lisa”, the gawky, bespectacled temporary girl (who’s been hired to help with the Christmas rush) under her wing. Eventually, Magda transforms her. Lisa is not really “Lisa” but “Lesley” Miles, a clever but odd duck, who has just written her end-of-high-school exams and stands an excellent chance of winning a university scholarship. (She doesn’t like her unfeminine name and chances a new one when hired at Goode’s). Always disappointed that he wasn’t given a son, Lisa’s father disapproves of her educational aspirations. University is utterly wasted on girls, he thinks. St. John provides a slice of 1950s urban Australian life in her social comedy. While some of the novel does, of course, unfold in the work place, much of it highlights the women’s lives outside of work. In fact, the ladies actually know very little about each other’s personal and interior lives. Their conversation at work is largely of the grousing variety. With its short chapters and light, brisk style, this is a modest, but entertaining novel. Thanks to my Good Reads friend Laura for alerting me to this charming book and to a Booker-shortlisted Australian author I’d never before heard of.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sherril

    Rather than saying I finished this book, I’d prefer to say, I am finished with this book. I am only 24 pages into this book of 224 pages, but I’m afraid it would be agony to make myself read the next 200. I got it because Hilary Mantel, an author I have not had the interest to read, but still appreciated her blurb, “The book I most often give as a gift to cheer people up.” I thought I could sure use that and what a promising thing to say about a book. I thought it was going to be charming and “p Rather than saying I finished this book, I’d prefer to say, I am finished with this book. I am only 24 pages into this book of 224 pages, but I’m afraid it would be agony to make myself read the next 200. I got it because Hilary Mantel, an author I have not had the interest to read, but still appreciated her blurb, “The book I most often give as a gift to cheer people up.” I thought I could sure use that and what a promising thing to say about a book. I thought it was going to be charming and “perfect for fans of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”, which I most certainly am. Instead it read like an old fashioned book with 1950’s stale, old fashioned ideas without any hint of irony. Maybe it gets better and maybe at some point I will return to it, but for now it goes on my ‘picked up and put down’ and ‘did not finish’ lists.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    This was a fun read - a little insight into life into Sydney in the 1960’s. There is no great, dramatic plot that holds you on its knife edge or any great controversy, but it was interesting to read about Patty, Fay and Lisa, the sales assistants in Cocktail Frocks, and Magda, a Continental, in Model Gowns, who eats salami and throws exotic parties. This was a very easy read - I flew through it in a day - and it was a day when I had other things to do and couldn’t even spend all day reading. It i This was a fun read - a little insight into life into Sydney in the 1960’s. There is no great, dramatic plot that holds you on its knife edge or any great controversy, but it was interesting to read about Patty, Fay and Lisa, the sales assistants in Cocktail Frocks, and Magda, a Continental, in Model Gowns, who eats salami and throws exotic parties. This was a very easy read - I flew through it in a day - and it was a day when I had other things to do and couldn’t even spend all day reading. It is just a light and amusing read - 3.5 stars - just what I felt like for a lazy Saturday afternoon!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Brooklyn Tayla

    I absolutely fell in love with this story when I saw the movie of the same name earlier in the year - and I couldn't wait to read the book! In this kindle edition, Bruce Beresford, the til director, writes a touching introduction detailing his friendship with the late Madeline St John, and how he promised to make a movie which focuses on her heart warming story of young Lesley - Lisa, as she finds herself working in the busiest department store in Sydney during the lead up and after Christmas. Of I absolutely fell in love with this story when I saw the movie of the same name earlier in the year - and I couldn't wait to read the book! In this kindle edition, Bruce Beresford, the til director, writes a touching introduction detailing his friendship with the late Madeline St John, and how he promised to make a movie which focuses on her heart warming story of young Lesley - Lisa, as she finds herself working in the busiest department store in Sydney during the lead up and after Christmas. Of course, the story doesn't just focus on Lesley- Lisa, wholly loveable and relatable, her love of reading is something every bookworm can connect with, and her excitement and awe about being taken under Magda's - a character that Lesley's colleagues at the store, Patty and Fay, find slightly intimidating due to her foreign mannerisms and so forth, perhaps. Magda and Lisa's friendship is honestly one of my favourite parts of the story, I just love how honest and open Magda is, how she introduces Lisa to her Slovenian culture and her family and friends, and how at the introduction of Rudi, Magda thinks to potentially set him up with the lovely Faye - another character I adored throughout this book, in the film I loved seeing the movie play out, but just as I had hoped, the book was far more personable and I can absolutely see why it's so treasured and loved above the authors' other books. This story, in my opinion, is utterly heart warming and vivid! I feel like the author gives such a picture of life in Sydney in the 1950's, especially in those peak crazy business times where everyone is scrambling for their gowns and the general Christmas rush, but namely the cast of characters in this book is really just what wins my heart over here!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Guylou (Two Dogs and a Book)

    This was a lovely short novel about four women working at Goode’s in Sydney, Australia, and their stories. I had a bit of a hard time with some of the expressions and vocabulary in the book as they would be particular to Australians. Overall, it was delightful to read but a bit too uneventful for my taste. This book was originally published in 1993 and it is being re-released by Scribner. 🙋🏼‍♀️ Thank you, Simon & Schuster Canada for sending me an ARC of this lovely novel. 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗪𝗼𝗺𝗲𝗻 𝗶𝗻 𝗕𝗹𝗮𝗰𝗸 by Ma This was a lovely short novel about four women working at Goode’s in Sydney, Australia, and their stories. I had a bit of a hard time with some of the expressions and vocabulary in the book as they would be particular to Australians. Overall, it was delightful to read but a bit too uneventful for my taste. This book was originally published in 1993 and it is being re-released by Scribner. 🙋🏼‍♀️ Thank you, Simon & Schuster Canada for sending me an ARC of this lovely novel. 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗪𝗼𝗺𝗲𝗻 𝗶𝗻 𝗕𝗹𝗮𝗰𝗸 by Madeleine St John is now available at your favourite bookstore. #poodles #poodlestagram #poodlesofinstagram #furbabies #dogsofinstagram #bookstagram #dogsandbooks #bookishlife #bookishlove #bookstagrammer #book #books #booklover #bookish #bookaholic #reading #readersofinstagram #instaread #ilovebooks #bookishcanadians #canadianbookstagram #bookreviewer #bookcommunity #bibliophile #bookphotography #thewomeninblack #madeleinestjohn #bookreview #womanfiction

  20. 4 out of 5

    mindful.librarian ☀️

    Charming and a great distraction

  21. 5 out of 5

    notgettingenough

    Update 14/9/2018: Bruce Beresford's movie of The Women in Black has just been released. And it's called Ladies in Black. Why????? WWHHYYYY????????????????????????????? More on it here: https://www.broadsheet.com.au/melbour... ------------------------- Given that St John is one of those Australians who leaves and declines ever to come back, I was in an uneasy state whilst reading Women in Black. Is the satire affectionate or spiteful? One might assume the latter. And yet, thinking enough of it to t Update 14/9/2018: Bruce Beresford's movie of The Women in Black has just been released. And it's called Ladies in Black. Why????? WWHHYYYY????????????????????????????? More on it here: https://www.broadsheet.com.au/melbour... ------------------------- Given that St John is one of those Australians who leaves and declines ever to come back, I was in an uneasy state whilst reading Women in Black. Is the satire affectionate or spiteful? One might assume the latter. And yet, thinking enough of it to try another, The Essence of the Thing set in the London in which she spent most of her adulthood, it is evident that she does have the necessary sympathy for her subjects to keep the reader onside. rest is here: https://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpre...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    So many people have been raving about this book and the movie. I haven't had a chance to see the movie yet, but wanted to read the book first. Ladies in Black is a snapshot of life in the 1950s and follows the lives of three of the main characters, and looks at a number of the minor characters who work in the Ladies cocktail section of a Sydney department store. Before the movie came out, I hadn't heard of this book. It was easy to read with short chapters. In some ways it felt I was reading about So many people have been raving about this book and the movie. I haven't had a chance to see the movie yet, but wanted to read the book first. Ladies in Black is a snapshot of life in the 1950s and follows the lives of three of the main characters, and looks at a number of the minor characters who work in the Ladies cocktail section of a Sydney department store. Before the movie came out, I hadn't heard of this book. It was easy to read with short chapters. In some ways it felt I was reading about a life in a different country - the idea that the city would be abandoned on a Saturday afternoon, let alone a Sunday, is a foreign concept to someone who has grown up in the era of Sunday trading. Nothing majorly groundbreaking happens to the main characters, but, over the course of 6-8 weeks, ordinary things happen to change their lives.

  23. 5 out of 5

    BlueSky

    Another book club read, otherwise I would not have touched it. I was hopeful this book might be better than The Essence of the Thing (after all, from that Mads could only go up) and it was - by the merest squeak. At least in this book there was a little progression with the story line, but it is still not worth wasting 3 hours of my life. The author does not have a good handle on flowing conversation or know how to make a situation credible. Tedious, pointless .... frustrating!!! One thing I did Another book club read, otherwise I would not have touched it. I was hopeful this book might be better than The Essence of the Thing (after all, from that Mads could only go up) and it was - by the merest squeak. At least in this book there was a little progression with the story line, but it is still not worth wasting 3 hours of my life. The author does not have a good handle on flowing conversation or know how to make a situation credible. Tedious, pointless .... frustrating!!! One thing I did learn from reading two of Madeleine's books - the author really did not like men!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jaclyn Crupi

    So delcious to re-read this.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bridget

    My friend loaned me this book and I'm so glad I read it. It is the 1950s, life is changing fast, on the floor of a large department store in Sydney the shop assistants have varied lives, the lonely wife of a man who doesn't seem to care enough for her, the good time girl always up for a party and never finding the right man. There is the tartar who runs the floor but who hides a heart of gold and across the floor the indomitable Magda, a style icon and who runs the Model Gowns part of the store My friend loaned me this book and I'm so glad I read it. It is the 1950s, life is changing fast, on the floor of a large department store in Sydney the shop assistants have varied lives, the lonely wife of a man who doesn't seem to care enough for her, the good time girl always up for a party and never finding the right man. There is the tartar who runs the floor but who hides a heart of gold and across the floor the indomitable Magda, a style icon and who runs the Model Gowns part of the store with a slightly scary, but always stylish sharp witted aplomb. These ladies have a shop uniform, a dress in black which they detest and despise. However as with all uniforms it is a great equaliser, except in Magda's case, she refuses to wear the standard uniform. The ladies in black are rushed off their feet as the rich women of Sydney shop for dresses for occasions and hunt for a bargain at sale time. Into the mix comes Lisa, called Lesley by her family, a name she detests, she has just sat the Leavers Examination, which indicates to everyone that she is 'clever girl'. Lisa is a breath of fresh air to the ladies but it is Magda in particular who takes Lisa, a skinny slip of a girl, under her wing and introduces her to a life she has never known existed. The model gowns lure Lisa in and Magda does the same, her European ways introduce Lisa to a passionate side of life she never sees in her home. As she works in the store over her holidays and waits for her exam results, she is drawn into the world of the department store and the lives of those who work there. This is a great slice of life book, it examines a world we don't usually see and it is, at its heart about what we see on the outside of people in our everyday lives often belies the things they are going through and that everyone is doing the best they can. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Barb in Maryland

    Lovely, lively prose, interesting characters, coupled with a firm grasp of time and place (late 1950s, Sydney, Australia). I'm still thinking about this one. More to follow...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sam Still Reading

    The Women in Black was a book I’d had on my ‘must buy’ list for some time. Fortunately, the release of Text Classics meant that I simply had to buy it! In my hazy recollection, I thought that this book might be something like the television programme Are You Being Served? but with a bit more weight to it. I was wrong. In no way should this book be compared to that TV show – this book is SO MUCH MORE. (Yes, I’m shouting. Delete those thoughts of Mrs Slocombe’s hair immediately). This is a book abo The Women in Black was a book I’d had on my ‘must buy’ list for some time. Fortunately, the release of Text Classics meant that I simply had to buy it! In my hazy recollection, I thought that this book might be something like the television programme Are You Being Served? but with a bit more weight to it. I was wrong. In no way should this book be compared to that TV show – this book is SO MUCH MORE. (Yes, I’m shouting. Delete those thoughts of Mrs Slocombe’s hair immediately). This is a book about Sydney (Australia) of the 1950s, of growing up, of relationships, friendships and a culture slowly changing to accept the influx of immigration post WWII. It’s a lovely book and stands beautifully on its own. Well done Text Publishing for reprinting this one and adding it as an Australian classic! The women in black that the title refers to are the women who work at a central Sydney department store (I had David Jones, Elizabeth St in my head). They all work in Ladies’ Wear in F.G Goode’s. There’s the somewhat unhappily married Patty, whose life seems in a bit of a rut. The new Christmas casual is Lisa, who has just finished her Leaving Certificate and wants to go on to university against her father’s wishes. Fay needs a man. Magda seems exotically foreign to the others (she eats salami!) but her growing friendship with Lisa will bring these women together. This book celebrates a different time when nothing happened and nothing was open on a Sunday, when only the bravest tried those new foreign foods like salami and girls left school, got married and had children. But characters like Magda (who is Hungarian) and Lisa challenge the status quo to change Australia into what we see today. Coming from a blended heritage of English-Australian and European immigrant-Australian, I found this fascinating. A world where people were scared to eat salami, olives and rollmops? Where boiled potatoes were as good as vegetables got? It seems so different to today, when Australians eat anything and everything – and are more accepting of the unknown. This book is delightful. Light, pleasing and enjoyable, it should take a proud place in our history. http://samstillreading.wordpress.com

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kali Napier

    I don't usually have to think long and hard at the end of a novel as to whether I enjoyed it or not. It's usually a gut response. The Women in Black by Madeleine St John is set in Sydney of 1960 in the ladies' frocks department of FG Goode's. The story is essentially a series of vignettes of the lives of the central characters of Lisa/Lesley, a high-school leaver working a casual Christmas job; Patty, whose husband leaves out of the blue, forcing her to cover for his disappearance to her family, I don't usually have to think long and hard at the end of a novel as to whether I enjoyed it or not. It's usually a gut response. The Women in Black by Madeleine St John is set in Sydney of 1960 in the ladies' frocks department of FG Goode's. The story is essentially a series of vignettes of the lives of the central characters of Lisa/Lesley, a high-school leaver working a casual Christmas job; Patty, whose husband leaves out of the blue, forcing her to cover for his disappearance to her family, colleagues, and his work; Fay, whose yearning for a man is at odds with the mores of the time, as she wants romance and passion; and Magda, an Eastern European, a new Australian whose food, style, and passion for life, come into contrast with the values and attitudes of the women in black at FG Goode's. There isn't much of a plot, and the trajectories of the ladies' lives are predictable and inevitable, but I feel I enjoyed dipping into an era. When I finished it, I thought 'meh', but leaving writing the review for a little while, I found my thoughts drifting back to the characters, and the light satire of this novel of manners.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Carole

    I totally loved this! Set in Australia in the late 1950s it follows the lives of 4 women who work in the ladies cocktail frocks section of a large Sydney department store. Each woman has her own challenges, and even though they aren't 'friends' as such they do help each other. A witty look at Australian society of the time, especially at the roles of women and the Europeans who resettled in Australia after the Second World War. And there are gorgeous frocks! The foreword to this edition (by the I totally loved this! Set in Australia in the late 1950s it follows the lives of 4 women who work in the ladies cocktail frocks section of a large Sydney department store. Each woman has her own challenges, and even though they aren't 'friends' as such they do help each other. A witty look at Australian society of the time, especially at the roles of women and the Europeans who resettled in Australia after the Second World War. And there are gorgeous frocks! The foreword to this edition (by the director of the recent movie based on this book) is interesting to read too. Highly recommended, especially for fans of The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham - there are similarities, although this book doesn't have Ham's darkness.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette Grant-Thomson

    Three and two-thirds stars I think. This is not one of my favourite genres, but I consider it well worth reading. It is a portrait in miniature of a certain social group in Sydney in the 1950s - the black-clad ladies who worked in the elite department store, Goode's. MSJ has taken several of the ladies and made them central figures, so we trace their 'current' stories. She has used clear, well-chosen anecdotes, telling much of the minutiae of their lives in such a way that we get to know them quit Three and two-thirds stars I think. This is not one of my favourite genres, but I consider it well worth reading. It is a portrait in miniature of a certain social group in Sydney in the 1950s - the black-clad ladies who worked in the elite department store, Goode's. MSJ has taken several of the ladies and made them central figures, so we trace their 'current' stories. She has used clear, well-chosen anecdotes, telling much of the minutiae of their lives in such a way that we get to know them quite well, up to a point. Each of these women - Patty, Magda perhaps, Fay and Lisa, go through critical changes in their lives outside Goode's in this time in focus. The stories and the overall picture are told with gentle irony, yet an evident care for the well being of her protagonists. The book includes a brief biography by film-maker Bruce Beresford, MSJ's university contemporary. She appears to have been brilliant, reclusive and highly unusual. On the whole it is a gem of a book, a 'feel-good' read and has a quality of delightfulness. I gained a clear picture of this group of women from the book, which is not a page-turner or one to become deeply immersed in but well worth the read. An enriching read.

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