SHOP NOW—free delivery anywhere in Australia

Member Loginmenu
Your basket is empty
The Women in Black

The Women in Black

Text Classics

Madeleine St John

The Ladies in Black stage musical by Carolyn Burns, with music and lyrics by Tim Finn, is based on this wonderful Australian classic.

Written by a superb novelist of contemporary manners, The Women 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. The Women in Black, introduced by Bruce Beresford, is a great novel, a lost Australian classic.



Read Bruce Beresford's introduction in the Guardian.

Read a lovely review at the Good Reading Copy blog.

Phinney Books in Seattle loves The Women in Black! 

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 Beresford,...

Read Moreright
Text publication date:
26 April 2012
First published:
AU Price:
NZ Price:
Loading Rating
Praise for Madeleine St John
andThe Women in Black

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

‘An exceptional writer. Those of us who knew her at Sydney University back in the late 1950s are still trying to forgive ourselves that we never guessed what she would become.’

‘A knockout - ironic, sharp, alive, and then you’re stopped in your tracks by the warmth of her insights.’

‘A little gem…shot through with old-fashioned innocence and sly humour.’

‘A highly sophisticated work, full of funny, sharp and subtle observations…a small masterpiece.’

‘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…[St John] 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.’

Other editions ofThe Women in Black