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Sydney in the late 1950s.
In Cocktail Frocks, on the second floor of the famous Goode’s Department Store, the women in black are girding themselves forthe Christmas rush. Lisa is the new Sales Assistant (Temporary). Across the floor and beyond the arch, she is about to meet the glamorous Continental refugee, Magda, guardian of the rose-pink cave of Model Gowns.
Madeleine St John, a modern-day Jane Austen, conjures a vanished summer of innocence with the lightest touch and tenderest of comic instincts.
‘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.’