My thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, and to the publisher, Tinder Press?Headline, for providing a proof copy. This review forms my honest opinion.
From the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Carer Deborah Moggach’s The Black Dress is a beautifully observed, darkly funny, tender and surprising novel about life changes and the unexpected twists and pleasures of being alone.
Pru is on her own. But then, so are plenty of other people. And while the loneliness can be overwhelming, surely she’ll find a party somewhere?
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?
Last year (I think it was last year – but then, time flies!) I read The Carer by Deborah Moggach, and I really enjoyed it. It was something of a surprise to me, entirely different to what I thought it would be. And so, I was very keen to read The Black Dress.
Told in the first person by the protagonist, Pru, it’s a novel which is very open. Pru directly, and often in a fourth wall breaking way, tells her story. Her husband has left her, she’s lost her best friend and so begins a new phase in her life. After attending the wrong funeral, and with those kindnesses ringing in her ears, rubbing uncomfortably alongside other societal ‘truths’ concerning her age, she determines to attend another funeral. And find herself a widower. At his wife’s funeral. All rather dark, but also fascinating!
It’s a concept that had me completely hooked at the blurb, and the author delivers (yet again) far more than I was expecting. This novel went places I could never have predicted. Just like The Carer, the theme of deception is prevalent. It’s dark. It’s delivered in an incredibly straight-forward, deadpan style which is both witty and at times unnerving with its honesty.
At its core, it is about ageing. About a time of life where society condemns you to nothingness. You are invisible. And I think that ties in very well with recent discussions about age and life/death over the last year. This book proves that age does not need to be a barrier. It’s full of drama and it’s even, dare I say it – sexy. Unexpected perhaps, but it’s a breath of fresh air.
And I absolutely loved it. I enjoyed The Carer immensely, but this I loved. It is 100% Pru’s story, and through her we meet Azra and Greg and a whole host of other characters who flit in and out. The narrative is told in such a forthright way that each character becomes whole very quickly. No matter that it is Pru’s version of that person, I found myself feeling that I knew them nonetheless.
The Black Dress is simply excellent. Sophisticated and intelligent, it is without a doubt one of the most unique and one of my favourite books this year to date. I will, without doubt be reading more from Deborah Moggach in future, she has now cemented herself as a must-read author as far as I’m concerned.
The Black Dress is available to buy now! If you’ve been tempted to buy, and you don’t already support an indie bookshop, please consider buying your copy via Bookshop.org. I work a few hours a week at a lovely bookshop, The Rabbit Hole in Brigg, North Lincolnshire and so if you happened to be looking for a bookshop to support, please do consider supporting them! The Rabbit Hole Bookshop UK