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Friends of Bookends review THE BLACK DRESS by Deborah Moggach

A moving, poignant and witty novel.

Do you have a little black dress?  Could it tell a story? Pru’s black dress could. Quite suddenly and unexpectantly, Pru’s husband leaves her. She did not see that coming. Wasn’t everything fine, their two grown up children had left home and were living abroad and Pru and Greg were rubbing along nicely, or so she thought. Pru is devastated and confides in her best friend Azra who tells her to get over him, throwing a list of negatives about Greg at Pru. Pru cannot believe this has happened and falls into the depths of depression and then while attending a friend’s funeral, discovers she is at the wrong funeral and does not know anyone. Pru is touched by the kindness of the strangers and finds herself weaving a story about a past friendship with the deceased woman and suddenly a plan is hatched to get a new man.

Pru buys a black dress from a charity shop and starts to read the intimations in the local newspaper, planning her attendance at a funeral of a completely unknown woman. Pru’s focus is on the recently bereaved husbands and she researches the lives of the deceased on social media, in order that she can present a plausible story of a past friendship. These poor men will need a shoulder to cry on, won’t they!

So starts the secret life of Pru who is determined to get her man with funny, disastrous, eye opening and unexpected consequences. This is a real good read which I read in two sittings. I loved Pru’s character and the situations she gets herself into with real laugh out loud moments. Another great book from Deborah Moggach.

What secrets does your little black dress hold?

Anne,  Friends of Bookends


Two days was all it took for me to read Deborah Moggach’s astonishing good tale. An extraordinary compulsive read it is a story of death, revenge and entrapment. The author has already given us a diverse number of titles: Tulip Fever, recounting the  true events of the tulip trade in Holland and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which was later turned into a successful film. The narrative of this book would would also lend itself as a film.

For this book she’s created an unattractive protagonist in both senses of the word.

Prudence- an apt name for our narrator- talks directly to her audience. This was a clever ploy, reminiscence of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd  written by the Master of storytelling,Agatha Christie.A sad depressive lady,she feels slighted, wronged at how her world has turned on her.

I felt little compassion for her as she was annoyingly self pitying and needy,but her saving grace was everyone can relate to death and being hurt.

The book was divided into four parts, each shocking the reader into the next chapter. I can imagine it would also work brilliantly as a TV series

The wordplay was very good ,from the alliteration of Dunelm Duvets, to the description of her boyfriend’s name being on underpants (Calvin)and the plastic flower feed sellotaped on flowers being compared to tiny colonoscopy bags.

It is, in part, an observation of how people are perceived.Many of the ‘bit’ players(the people who have died),are in death, revealed as quite different to the general opinion of them. The public façade being different to the private persona.

A riveting, thought -provoking read.

Francine, Friends of Bookends


The Black Dress is Deborah Moggach as 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.

Linda, Friends of Bookends


I have never read a Deborah Moggach novel before, but I know how famous she is for her previous best sellers and the films created from them. This novel is very skilfully written. I especially liked the way the reader only gets to know the full picture three quarters the way through the novel, and even then there are a few more secrets which shock.

The main character, Pru, seems to have it all, a family, a husband, a very close best friend and children. Her life then disintegrates, in so many ways and not in any way one expects. Does the reader understand her inner turmoil? Is the way she resolves situations normal? Is anyone sane?

The black dress is supposed to be a man magnet which bewitches widowers when they are at their most vulnerable. Does it work or does it cause the wearer untold misery and strip her life back to the bare bones? Is it men who will make her happy?

You will have to read this rather intriguing book which leaves one thinking about the plot long after the book is finished.

Jen, Friends of Bookends


I know that I’m really enjoying a book when I start reading slowly, worried in case I’m going to miss a funny line or perhaps a valuable clue. The Black Dress by Deborah Moggach is one of those books. It moves from laugh out loud moments to poignant thoughts about loss and getting older in an instant. It has more twists and turns running through the story than you would expect, even when you think the story is winding down you’re hit with another curve ball. Pru is approaching 70, when her world is rocked by her husband leaving her for another woman. After finding herself at the wrong funeral and grieving for the life that she’s lost she buys a charity shop black dress and soon becomes obsessed with reading the deaths column in the local paper, gaining access to funerals as an almost invisible woman but on the look out for love and excitement as a way of getting over her loneliness. If a book had film or TV drama written over it this one certainly has. My favourite book of the year so far.

Karen, Friends of Bookends


Oh my! As I settled to read what seemed to be a bittersweet tale of a lady close to myself in years, and celebrating such a book that has a mature ‘heroine’, nothing, just nothing prepared me for the most audacious twists I’ve encountered in a long while. One after the other!! I actually roared with laughter. Not from the specifics of the plot but for the sheer joy of what an experienced novelist can produce to entertain and delight readers. So clever the way the story turns on it’s axis from light to dark with a wit and observation that is typical of Deborah Moggach’s work.

The black dress seemed to be me to be somehow symbolic – Prudence’s acknowledgement that the entire dynamic of her life was changing, almost as if the wearing of the dress was a character changer. At least I did early on in the book! Then thoughts of Congreve and spurned women fuelled my impressions! I really don’t want to give anything away but the story develops from Pru’s husband of many years walking out on her and how she copes with life after marriage, from confiding in best friends to gatecrashing funerals in the black dress she finds in a charity shop.

A cast of colourful characters, a well paced narrative that urges the reader on, with an exploration of human nature – how people’s perceptions of themselves differ form how other see them and what lengths people will go to achieve their end goals.

It is an entertaining read and sure to delight Moggach’s fans.

Gill, Friends of Bookends


This story centres around Pru. Pru, to everyone around her, looks like she has it all. A great husband, great friends, and a beautiful house with 5 bedrooms in a decent neighbourhood in Muswell Hill, London. Pru enjoys scouring charity shops, and comes across a little black dress, which will surely come in handy at some stage. Everything is going really well. And then her husband unexpectedly walks out on her. Pru’s life has suddenly crumbled around her. And, as is usual, in messy splits, some people stick by her and some don’t. As time goes on, Pru decides to have a new hobby, which is attending funerals of strangers. Her new little black dress comes in handy as she attends these funerals of people she doesn’t know. Secretly, she hopes she’ll come across her soulmate. Will the dress help her find what she’s looking for?

This was the first book I’ve read by this author, and will certainly not be the last. I really enjoyed the book the whole way through, and was not expecting the ending. The author really made the awkward situations that funerals can be actually a bit humorous, which wasn’t expected, but also felt like a relief that it wasn’t doom and gloom. She uses excellent descriptives to really make every scenario and page come alive. There was a great deal of wit and fun between the pages, and made this a really easy read. I liked the characters, and Pru had some great qualities about her, that could really make you believe that she could be your friend. An excellent read to wile away those summer days.

Natalie, Friends of Bookends


After finding a “little black dress” in a charity shop Pru buys it, knowing one day it will come in handy. What she doesn’t realise at the time is that very soon her life is going to change completely. At present she has a nice house with five bedrooms, in a good neighbourhood located in Muswell Hill, London. But suddenly without warning her husband leaves her and moves in with her best friend Azra.  With good neighbours, book shelves, an open fire and an apple tree in the gardens, Pru thought she had it all but now these things are all she has in her life. She used to have a good friend in Azra, but now she can’t help thinking is she the friend that she thought she was? As time goes on her friends and neighbours both stick by her and also ignore and be nasty to her. Now she has a new pastime, attending funerals of complete strangers, wearing the black dress,  on the hope of finding a new friend, lover and soulmate. When she eventually thinks she has found a new companion, she is happy for a time, but is he who she thinks he is or is he “playing her” as she “played him” earlier in their friendship ?
Will she find love and commitment wearing this black dress that she found in the  charity shop or is it doomed from the start in her quest to find love and friendship?

Some interesting characters and situations appear in this book, but was it the dress or just lifetime circumstances that brought about the changes to Prudence’s life with good and bad swops along with family and friends changes.  Life goes on in our quest to find the perfect in everything and sometimes it is not where we are looking for it. An unexpected ending to the book for me, I didn’t see that coming in this quirky, humorous and sad story that I really enjoyed reading.

Heather, Friends of Bookends