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Ladies in Black

Previously published as The Women in Black and now a major film directed by Bruce Beresford and starring Julia Ormond, Angourie Rice, Rachael Taylor, Ryan Corr, Shane Jacobson, Susie Porter, Alison McGirr, Noni Hazlehurst and Vincent Perez.

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.

Read a review of The Ladies in Black film in if magazine
Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Dark cloud over the future of Australian film’, June 2018
Australian, ‘Bruce Beresford’s film Ladies in Black a reality after 25 years’($), June 2018

Read Bruce Beresford's introduction to the Text Classics edition, The Women in Black, in the Guardian

Madeleine St John
About the Author

Madeleine St John was born in Sydney in 1941. Her father, Edward, was a barrister and Liberal politician. Her mother, Sylvette, committed suicide in 1954, when Madeleine was twelve. Sylvette’s death, Madeleine later said, ‘obviously changed everything’.

St John studied Arts at Sydney University, where her contemporaries included Bruce...

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Text publication date:
6 August 2018
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Praise for Madeleine St John
andLadies in Black

‘Seductive, hilarious, brilliantly observed, this novel shimmers with wit and tenderness.’

‘A major minor masterpiece, a witty and poignant snapshot of Sydney the year before yesterday.’

‘A delicious book. Funny and happy, it’s like the breath of youth again.’

‘St. John casts an airy spell with the deftness of her prose, which moves gracefully, swiftly and with perfect manners.’

‘Funny, affectionate, moving and written with a light, comic touch.’

‘A pocket masterpiece. A jewel.’

‘Brimming with elegance, uncannily modern and sparkling with mischief.’

Other editions ofLadies in Black
  • Ladies in Black
    ISBN: 9781925626957
    6 August 2018
    Buy ebook