The Women in Black: A Novel (Paperback)
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This is an absolute delight of a novel set in a fictional department store in Australia. Featuring four women who work in the store, it goes back and forth between each of them as they work during the holiday rush and deal with their own lives outside of work in ways that frequently overlap. The quick wit and snappy action make this the perfect book to pick up to read over a weekend.— Cat
“Tart, beguiling, witty and compassionate, Madeleine St. John’s novel is a literary boost for the spirits.” —Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air
“A deceptively smart comic gem.” –The New York Times Book Review
“Witty and delicious.” –People
The women in black, so named for the black frocks they wear while working at Goode’s department store, are busy selling ladies’ dresses during the holiday rush. But they somehow find time to pursue other goals…
Patty, in her mid-thirties, has been working at Goode’s for years. Her husband, Frank, eats a steak for dinner every night, watches a few minutes of TV, and then turns in. Patty yearns for a baby, but Frank is always too tired for that kind of thing.
Sweet, unlucky Fay wants to settle down with a nice man, but somehow nice men don’t see her as marriage material.
Glamorous Magda runs the high-end gowns department. A Slovenian émigré, Magda is cultured and continental and hopes to open her own boutique one day.
Lisa, a clever and shy teenager, takes a job at Goode’s during her school break. Lisa wants to go to university and dreams of becoming a poet, but her father objects to both notions.
By the time the last marked-down dress is sold, all of their lives will be forever changed.
A pitch-perfect comedy of manners set during a pivotal era, and perfect for fans of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Women in Black conjures the energy of a city on the cusp of change and is a testament to the timeless importance of female friendship.
"When I need a mental escape from a stressful situation, I often fantasize about wandering around one of the grand department stores of my New York City childhood... Most of those palaces of consumption are gone but, fortunately, Scribner has recently published the first American edition of this tart, beguiling novel." -Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air
“A witty novel set in a posh department store in 50s Sydney, where four women are at work in Ladies Dresses. The author unpacks their secret yearnings as they wake up to—and resist—the limitations of their lives. Delicious.” –People Magazine
“Like the deceptively simple (but perfectly crafted) little black dress, this delicious and sly masterpiece works its magic from the very first sentence. Once you slip into its folds-- full of hope and new beginnings, of luck and laughter and love-- I dare you not to catch yourself smiling, and wanting to twirl, for days and days and days.” –Sarah Blake, author of The Guest House and The Postmistress
"A little gem... shot through with old-fashioned innocence and sly humour."
"A highly sophisticated work, full of funny, sharp and subtle observations...a small masterpiece."
—Sunday Times (UK)
"There is something special about The Women in Black. St John's tone is a joy: brisk, perfectly managed and, in its disdain for clutter, oddly life-affirming. She casts an airy spell with the deftness of her prose, which moves gracefully, swiftly and with perfect manners... conjures a Sydney on the cusp of modern promise; a place where her characters can meet the future with a bright face and step out of the past like an old dress, where limits can be lightly shaken off."
—Delia Falconer, Australian
"Seductive, hilarious, brilliantly observed, this novel shimmers with wit and tenderness."
—Helen Garner, author of Monkey Grip and The Spare Room
"A delicious book. Funny and happy, it's like the breath of youth again."
"A witty little gem of a tale... instantly transports readers back to a more genteel era." —Kirkus
“Funny and light, this story moves quickly as each character navigates the 1950s-era challenges of being a working
woman in a male-dominated society with limited options for the happily ever after they all strive for.” —Booklist
“A striking debut novel of wit, charm, female friendships and universal dreams... a delightful and uplifting slice-of-life view." --Shelf Awareness, starred review