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.
"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 striking debut novel of wit, charm, female friendships and universal dreams... a delightful and uplifting slice-of-life view." --Shelf Awareness, starred review
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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 delicious book. Funny and happy, it's like the breath of youth again."
"A highly sophisticated work, full of funny, sharp and subtle observations...a small masterpiece."
--Sunday Times (UK)
"A little gem... shot through with old-fashioned innocence and sly humour."
"Seductive, hilarious, brilliantly observed, this novel shimmers with wit and tenderness."
--Helen Garner, author of Monkey Grip and The Spare Room