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The Women in Black: A Novel Paperback – Deckle Edge, February 11, 2020

3.9 out of 5 stars 1,004 ratings

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From the Publisher

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Department store particulars are part of the charm of The Women in Black, a deceptively smart comic gem that tracks four women through the pandemonium of one holiday season in 1950s Sydney. Laced with a fierce intelligence that captures the limited options for women and postwar xenophobia views, it’s also a love letter to department stores of yore.” --Susan Coll, New York Times Book Review

"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." 
Vogue

"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."
Jane Gardam 

"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

About the Author

Madeleine St. John was born in Sydney in 1941. In 1965 she moved to the United States and attended Stanford, and later moved to England to attend Cambridge University. In 1993, she published her debut novel in Australia, The Women in Black. She is author of three other novels including The Essence of the Thing, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. St. John was the first Australian woman to receive this honor. Madeleine St. John died in 2006.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Scribner; Reprint edition (February 11, 2020)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 224 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1982134089
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1982134082
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 7.2 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.63 x 0.6 x 8.38 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    3.9 out of 5 stars 1,004 ratings

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Customer reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5
1,004 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on April 14, 2020
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Reviewed in the United States on May 27, 2020
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Reviewed in the United States on June 28, 2020
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Top reviews from other countries

Richmonde
1.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 26, 2020
2 people found this helpful
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Baglady
2.0 out of 5 stars Dull and unoriginal
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 3, 2022
Jane Anderson
4.0 out of 5 stars Sparkling prose in this 50's fairy tale
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 29, 2013
6 people found this helpful
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J. A. Findlay
5.0 out of 5 stars Story of salesgirls in Australia
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 30, 2020
Virginia Beck
4.0 out of 5 stars A nostalgic read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 9, 2020