NOVEL: The Women in Black
AUTHOR: Madeleine St John
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 1993
This one is lighthearted and sweet. The titular women in black are employees (wearing matching dresses as uniforms) in the Ladies’ Frocks Department at Goode’s, a department store in Sydney, Australia, in the year 1960. They’ve got troubles of the domestic sort. There’s a neglected wife in a loveless, sexless, child-less marriage. There’s a Miss Lonelyhearts, pushing 30 and longing to settle down, tired of the men she meets at parties. There’s a very young one, unsure of her way in the world and longing for the education her father forbids her. There’s Magda, an emigree from Slovenia, glamorous and exotic, who had been through hell during the war, and who has a fierce appetite for the finer things in life. The author has a warm regard for all of her characters, as well as a keen eye for their foibles.
Finely evocative of a particular time and place, as well as a bit of a send up of mid-century mores, this one goes down particularly easily. Wrongs are righted. Jack shall have Jill. As the elderly Miss Jones says to the innocent Lisa, “A clever girl is the most wonderful thing in all Creation you know,” and, so she is. Her employer observes her leaving work at the end of the book, “Young girl. New frock. Box of chocolates. That’s all just as it should be!”
Read this one with Henry Mancini or Herb Alpert on, and imagine yourself at one of Magda’s parties. And maybe you’d better buy that dress you’ve had your eye on, just in case…
RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): 3 1/2 Whistles
HOW TO PURCHASE: Amazon
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Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.
Laura can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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