In one of the most exciting releases of the year, Madeleine: A Life of Madeleine St John, Helen Trinca explores the life of one of Australia’s greatest writers, the reclusive Madeline St John.
Trinca, currently the Managing Director of The Australian, has tackled other weighty topics in the past with her acclaimed books Waterfront: The Battle that Changed Australia and Better than Sex: How a Whole Generation Got Hooked on Work. But these were public stories with public figures. Madeline St John on the other hand was a mysterious soul, a near hermit at the peak of her powers despite her celebrated works altering the Australian literary landscape forever. Little is known of her struggles with fame and fortune, which didn’t come until she was in her fifties with the release of The Women in Black in 1993.
At the age of fifteen Madeleine saw herself as a painter and pianist, but Ms Medway peered down at Madeleine during her entrance interview in 1957 and announced: ‘You know dear, I think you might write.’
Helen Trinca has captured the troubled life of Madeleine St John in this moving account of a remarkable writer. After the death of her mother when Madeleine was just twelve, she struggled to find her place in the world. Estranging herself from her family, and from Australia, she lived for a time in the US before moving to London where Robert Hughes, Germaine Greer, Bruce Beresford, Barry Humphries and Clive James were making their mark. When The Women in Black was published, it became clear what a marvellous writer Madeleine St John was.
Don’t miss Bruce Beresford talking to Helen Trinca about trying to turn his friend Madeleine St John’s novel The Women in Black into a film.
Praise for Madeline St John:
‘Seductive, hilarious, brilliantly observed, this novel shimmers with wit and tenderness.’
Helen Garner on The Women in Black
‘This book is like the perfect, vintage little black dress. It’s beautifully constructed, it evokes another time while being mysteriously classic and up-to-date, and it makes you feel happy. I love it.’
Kaz Cooke on The Women in Black
‘A major minor masterpiece, a witty and poignant snapshot of Sydney the year before yesterday.’
Barry Humphries on The Women in Black
‘It is a deliciously spare piece of prose that deftly and sympathetically mines the psychology of a break-up.’
Adelaide Advertiser on The Essence of the Thing
At the very end of the Ladies’ Frocks Departments, past Cocktail Frocks, there was something very special, something quite, quite wonderful; but it wasn’t for everybody: that was the point. Because there, at the very end, there was a lovely arch, on which was written in curly letters Model Gowns.
In the famous F.G. Goode department store, Lisa is the new Sales Assistant (Temporary) in Ladies’ Cocktail Frocks. She is about to meet Magda, the glamorous Continental refugee and guardian of the rose-pink cave of Model Gowns.
Nicola should never have stepped out to buy that pack of cigarettes because the man she discovers in her living room when she returns is not the adorable, straightforward, devoted Jonathan with whom she has been sharing her life and flat for the past six years. That Jonathan would never have simply, unilaterally, decided that she should, as he abruptly put it, ‘move out.’
So a shocked, grief-stricken Nicola packs her bags and sets out bravely on the bumpy course that will take her fro the hellish end of an affair to the essence of the thing. With her comic timing and tender vision the brilliant Madeleine St John, author of The Women in Black, takes us into the changing nature of the human heart.
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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