Goode’s is based on David Jones. The book follows the life of four women working in the ladies’ wear section over one hot, sultry summer. St John so captures the mood and chracter of that time that you feel transported back there in an instant – I could feel the summer heat – all gritty and sweaty – and I could smell the trains and the dust and I knew the feeling of relief when you were ushered into DJ’s by the doorman, into a place of cool tiles and marble, with polished timber banisters and perfumed scents trailing after imaculately dressed women. It was another world.
During the 70’s, as a child, I was a regular visitor to DJ’s. After our family trips to Macquarie St specialists we would sometimes walk around Hyde Park to DJ’s or we would walk in the other direction and stroll down Martin Place before catching the train back home again. I remember saving up my birthday money to buy something from DJ’s when I was 11 – my first copy of ‘Jane Eyre’.
St John’s descriptions of the departments, the weather and the busy hustle of sales evoked so many childhood memories that I felt a little overwhelmed. Even Mr Ryder’s solitary stroll down Martin Place on Christmas Eve felt like a personal experience.
So many authors from this time seem embarrassed by our innocent post-war history. It was not a cosmopolitan time. We were not trendy, worldly or sophisticated. So many people of St John’s era, including St John herself, left Australia for the Continent. I thought this book might be cynical and disparaging. It was not. ‘The Women in Black’ is a Sydney summer delight from start to finish and it has recently been republished in the Text Australian Classics series at only $12.95!