The Women in Black by Madeleine St. John is a charming story set in 1950s Sydney, Australia, where women at the F.G. Goode department store wear simple black frocks to sell ladies cocktail dresses for Christmas and the New Year.
Readers are dropped into the lives of several women during the six weeks’ time this story covers. Middle-aged Patty worries about her wayward husband. Unlucky-in-love Fay considers trying again. The exotic Magda is deeper than she appears. And temporary hire Lesley, who has changed her name to Lisa on the application form, is waiting for the exam results that will determine if she has qualified for university. In the background, practical Miss Jacobs (we never learn her first name) manages the department.
This book is a fast, fun read, and there’s a lot going on with each character. The dialogue and narrative is a bit wordy, so I turned off my analytical mind and let myself enjoy the story simply for its entertainment.*
And here’s something to think about: author Madeleine St. John wrote four novels and left a fifth unfinished at the time of her 2006 death.
According to her obituary, St. John lived an interesting life—and set herself up for an interesting memorial. Throughout her life, she was painstakingly reclusive, and she planned her funeral so that her privacy would continue to be honored. She stipulated that no mention of her life should be made during her funeral service. (Her friend and vicar sidestepped this request by speaking about St. John before the service officially began.) And she destroyed her lifelong address book, creating a new one that listed only a handful of friends.
Reader, I really enjoyed this fun, sweet peek into the lives of women in another time and place, and I think you will, too! I’d love to hear your thoughts about this story.
Here with you,
*Here’s an update from one of our reading friends: She listened to the audio form of this book and the charming accents tempered the wordiness. It sounds like this would be an extra fun book to “read” by audio!