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Summary

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?

©2021 Deborah Moggach (P)2021 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd

Critic reviews

"Moggach is at the height of her powers." (Sunday Times)

 "Full of warmth and humour, as well as blistering truths." (Daily Mirror)

What listeners say about The Black Dress

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    4 out of 5 stars
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How true are truths?

Just before her 70th birthday, Pru's husband Greg leaves her to go on a 'spiritual journey' and she is comforted by her friendship with her rather zany old friend Azra. Too much has been made of Pru gate-crashing funeral wakes in her little charity shop black dress with the intention of hooking a 'fresh' widower. This part verges on the offensive (see what you think when Pru's in the marital bed with one of them with incontinent pads hanging out of the wardrobe) - but it is a very small part of the book which improves greatly.

Pru's desolation, loneliness, sense of betrayal and feelings of uselessness are minutely observed with a mix of aching pity and sardonic humour as you'd expect from Deborah Marigold Hotel Moggach. Old age is a dark presence - even the flower food attached to a bouquet of flowers is like 'a little colostomy bag'. Pru's adventures into sex and relationships maintain this balance between poignancy and slightly sick comedy. I can't give more detail because it's essential that all the packed-in twists and turns and variations of the truth which make for utterly compulsive listening are not spoiled. The gradual teasing out of truths and non-truths and perhaps-truths keeps you intrigued and puzzled.

BUT I think the final section on Pru and Azra is entirely and seriously misjudged and spoils the whole. When you listen you'll know which element I'm referring to and you may well feel the same. I felt badly let down by the author! All the same, it doesn't prevent the whole from being a great listen.

BUT again - the narration! I really hated the hammy, gushing, exaggerated, irritating way in which it was read. Had I not really wanted to listen to it as I like Deborah Moggach, I'd have sent it back. Just AWFUL. There's drama enough in the story without injecting such a false, over-the-top tone which diminishes the strong insightful, human element of the book. I wonder what the author thought of the narration.

2 people found this helpful

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light story - grating narrator

Pleasant enough - I found the narrator so grating after a few chapters I skipped ahead and only skimmed the rest to find out what happened. Will be returning the book

1 person found this helpful

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Game of Two Halves

I enjoyed the book but I wished I'd read it in hard copy. I found the accent and speech of the narrator distracting on occasion and sometimes positively off-putting.

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highly anticipated but quite boring unfortunately

story starts well but doesn't really go anywhere its a bit boring, stayed with it hoping it got better but it didn't. bit of a damp sqib tbh.

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So, so worth a listen

I Loved it! A brilliant story & a fantastic narrator, utterly engaging from start to finish.

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Found the narrator's accent irritating

I found the narrator's accent irritating - and almost stopped listening to the book - but decided to keep going. Enjoyed the book although the ending was a little disappointing compared to the first three quarters of the book . Think I would have given a higher rating for the book if I had read it