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Publisher's Summary

Now a major motion picture starring Rachael Taylor, Angourie Rice and Jullia Ormond. 

At the very end of the Ladies’ Frocks Departments, past Cocktail Frocks, there was something very special, something quite, quite wonderful; but it wasn’t for everybody: that was the point. Because there, at the very end, there was a lovely arch, on which was written in curly letters Model Gowns.  

Written by a superb novelist of contemporary manners, Ladies in Black is a fairytale which illuminates the extraordinariness of ordinary lives. The women in black are run off their feet, what with the Christmas rush and the summer sales that follow. But it’s Sydney in the 1950s, and there’s still just enough time left on a hot and frantic day to dream and scheme....

By the time the last marked-down frock has been sold, most of the staff of the Ladies’ Cocktail section at F. G. Goode’s have been launched into slightly different careers. 

With the lightest touch and the most tender of comic instincts, Madeleine St John conjures a vanished summer of innocence. Ladies in Black is a great novel, a lost Australian classic.

©1993 Madeleine St John (P)2009 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd

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Beautifully written, perfectly narrated

I first read this novel years go when it was originally called Women in Black and enjoyed it. As a film version has just come out I listened to the audio book to refresh my memory and enjoyed it even more the second time around. Most women will be familiar with the helpful Ladies in Black in the fashion sections of big department stores all over the world, although sadly nowadays they are a disappearing breed.

If you enjoy character portraits, this could be a rewarding book for you, with wit and humour and a selection of people from differing backgrounds set in Sydney, Australia in the late 1950's. Outstanding for me were Magda and Stefan, displaced refugees from war torn Europe, getting re-settled happily in a new country, while keeping alive their own culture and group of friends. I laughed and admired Magda's virtual soliloquy as she greets and welcomes her guests, I could picture the happy chaos so well, and also later the description of all the customers and the atmosphere of the traditional January Sales.

It is a beautifully written novel, the story flows, the characters are drawn perfectly, the dialogue is convincing, nothing grates and you feel empathy in different ways for each of the characters.

The narration by Deirdre Rubenstein is top-notch, every character voice rings true to the writer's intent and the whole experience was pleasure. This is not my usual reading fare, but recommend it gladly to those who will take it as intended, a delightful slice of life, typical of the era and a thoughtful gentle look at a group of women and their interactions with each other over a short time in their lives.