Book Reviews

The Women in Black // Various journeys of age

The Women in BlackThe Women in Black by Madeleine St. John

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


An irresistibly charming debut novel set in a department store in Sydney in the 1950s.

The women in black, so named for the black frocks they wear while working at an upscale department store called Goode’s, are run off their feet selling ladies’ cocktail dresses during the Christmas rush. But in Sydney in the 1950s, there’s always time to pursue other goals…

Patty, in her mid-thirties, has been working at Goode’s for years. She’s married to Frank, who eats a steak for dinner every night, watches a few minutes of TV, and then turns in, leaving Patty to her own thoughts. She wants a baby, but Frank is always too tired for that kind of thing. Sweet Fay, wants to settle down with a nice man, but somehow nice men don’t see her as marriage material.

The glamorous Magda runs the high-end gowns department. A Slovenian émigré who met her Hungarian husband in a refugee camp, Magda is clever and cultured. She finds the Australians to be unfashionable, and dreams of opening her own boutique one day.

Lisa, a teenager awaiting the results of her final exams, takes a job at Goode’s for the holidays. She wants to go to university and secretly dreams of being a poet, but her father objects to both notions. Magda takes Lisa under her wing, and by the time the last marked-down dress has been sold, all of their lives will be forever changed.

Perfect for fans of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, this delightful and uplifting novel portrays the roles of women in the 1950s and the timeless importance of female friendship.


First, I am a bit confused with the various versions of this book. Was this published in the 90’s and now being republished after the movie release (which I was also unaware of) in 2018?

Second, there is not much to say for this book that is not said in the synopsis. I am unsure where I thought this book was going to go. Perhaps that is the larger problem, it really went nowhere. Where some women might like that stagnant story telling that just gives you a look at 4 women and the various struggles they face at their stage in lives, I do not. I wanted some romance, mystery, merde anything at this point. Being in my early 20’s and a large fan of the 1950’s era, I really appreciated the aspects of typical 1950’s life for women in Australia in comparison to American women in the same era. But that it about all I felt for this book.


Do you have a favorite era? Anyone see this movie and is it worth seeing?

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