I’ve been a fan of Deborah Moggach’s writing for years and it is a great disappointment to me that she hasn’t featured here on Linda’s Book Bag more frequently. Indeed, the only other of her books I have read and reviewed since I began blogging is The Carer in a post you can read here. Consequently I was thrilled to receive a copy of Deborah’s latest book, The Black Dress from both Louise Swannell and the folk at Team Bookends. I’m delighted to share that review today. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in the blog tour.
Published by Tinder Press on 21st July 2021, The Black Dress is available for purchase here.
The Black Dress
Pru’s husband has walked out, leaving her alone to contemplate her future. She’s missing not so much him, but the life they once had – picnicking on the beach with small children, laughing together, nestling up like spoons in the cutlery drawer as they sleep. Now there’s just a dip on one side of the bed and no-one to fill it.
In a daze, Pru goes off to a friend’s funeral. Usual old hymns, words of praise and a eulogy but…it doesn’t sound like the friend Pru knew. And it isn’t. She’s gone to the wrong service. Everyone was very welcoming, it was – oddly – a laugh, and more excitement than she’s had for ages. So she buys a little black dress in a charity shop and thinks, now I’m all set, why not go to another? I mean, people don’t want to make a scene at a funeral, do they? No-one will challenge her – and what harm can it do?
My Review of The Black Dress
Prudence needs a new man in her life.
The Black Dress is Deborah Moggach at her most incisive, most skilled and most entertaining. This is an absolute corker of a story because it defies genre and entertains on so many levels.
There’s a brilliant plot in The Black Dress as Pru sets about rebuilding her life. I loved the division of the structure into four separate parts, especially when there are some real surprises along the way. So much of what happens to Pru is prosaic and ordinary, and yet so much is shocking and extraordinary too, that Deborah Moggach achieves the perfect balance in her acerbic observations of a woman in her late middle age.
Pru is a complete triumph. Her wry, conversational, persona draws in the reader so that they are as much a part of the story as Pru herself. Pru speaks directly to the reader in such a convincing manner that I found myself replying to her rhetorical questions out loud, so clever is Deborah Moggach’s writing. Although Pru isn’t especially principled and frequently displays negative characteristics, she gains the reader’s trust and empathy completely so that it is impossible not to want her to triumph and be happy. Duplicitous, manipulative, vulnerable, caring and lonely, I thought she was utterly magnificent.
Aside from fabulous characterisation and a cracking narrative, it is Deborah Moggach’s humour and wit that shimmers throughout to make The Black Dress an absolutely joyous book. Certainly she deals with darker themes of death and grief, adultery and loneliness, controlling behaviours and identity, in ways that give depth and interest, but The Black Dress is incredibly funny too. It might be that I am not far off Pru’s age myself, but I felt her comments about life were so sharp, so pertinent and voiced to perfection how I might have described things, if only I had the same skill, that The Black Dress was a book that spoke right to me.
I think readers may need a level of maturity fully to appreciate The Black Dress, but I found it warm, witty, scalpel sharp and fabulous entertainment. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
About Deborah Moggach
Deborah Moggach is the author of nineteen successful novels including the bestselling Tulip Fever. In 2012, her novel These Foolish Things was adapted for the screen under the title The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and starred Judi Dench, Dev Patel, Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith.
An award-winning screenwriter, she won a Writers’ Guild Award for her adaptation of Anne Fine’s Goggle-Eyes and her screenplay for the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was nominated for a BAFTA.
Her television screenwriting credits include the acclaimed adaptations of her own novels Close Relations and Final Demand, as well as Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate and The Diary of Anne Frank.
Deborah has been Chairman of the Society of Authors and worked for PEN’s Executive Committee. A fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, she was appointed an OBE in the 2018 New Year’s Honours List for services to literature and drama.
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