Review Blog

Oct 09 2013

The women in black by Madeleine St John

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Text Classics, 2012 (2009). ISBN 9781921922299.
(Age: Secondary). Recommended. Set in the 1950s in Goode's department store, which resembles David Jones, the women in black work in the Ladies Cocktail Frocks department. Lesley has just finished school and is waiting for her results. She re-names herself 'Lisa' to take a temporary job at Goode's during the Christmas rush and New Year sales. Lisa is intelligent and an avid reader. She recommends Anna Karenina to co-worker, Fay, who is searching for a husband but only seems to meet the wrong type of man. The wry humour is generated from the idiosyncrasies of the characters.
Magda, who presides over the high couture gowns, takes Lisa under her wing, benignly exposing her to a more continental lifestyle than Lisa has grown up with on Sydney's north shore. Lisa's changing life is epitomised by the New Year's Eve party at Magda's Mosman home, where she meets Hungarian Miklos (who calls himself Michael) who is her age and seems as Australian as Lisa herself. This chapter could be particularly interesting for English classes because the writing style changes to relate the events of the party. They are told in a breathy rush by Magda, which encapsulates them in time and perspective.
Teen fashionistas will enjoy Lisa's growing appreciation of clothing as art and fans of retro will slip comfortably into Australia's urban past.
Joy Lawn

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