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
The Black Dress by Deborah Moggach is bloody marvelous. Why? Prue, that’s why!
At the start of the novel her husband has left her, at the age of sixty-nine she is cut adrift, lonely, terribly, terribly lonely in fact. So much so, after going to the wrong funeral, she buys a little black dress, because she quite liked how welcoming everyone was and comes up with the idea of hitting on a man at his own wife’s funeral!
Now bear with me, because I know that sounds weird, but it works and it is both heartbreakingly sad, yet very funny and haunting as well. Prue is as the novel starts, is lost, desperate, but she is not going to slide into old age quietly, even though her heart is breaking and that is why I love her so much. She has characteristics that slowly reveal themselves as the novel progresses, now some will shock you, some might actually make you wonder if she is sane, but I defy you not to cheer her on, even when you know you shouldn’t. She is a creation of such cleverness that I was sad to leave her behind when the novel ended! She crashes in and out of peoples lives, falls in love, loses, wins and yet when you sit back, you can’t help wondering, if happiness will ever be within her reach and that is why Prue is one of my very favorite characters of all time! She gets depressed just like you and me, but she bounces back and each time, she will shock you a little or a lot, depending how sensitive you are to the odd moment of what could best be described as slightly borderline psychopathic behavior.
Now, novels often rely on one central character to carry the story, sometimes it works, sometimes it all goes horribly wrong, in The Black Dress it is a utter triumph! The novels humor is dark, deliciously so and it centers around Prue, who is like a black hole, because she has a gravitational pull that it is impossible to escape from and frankly I didn’t want to. I could happily have stayed in her company for many, many more chapters. She will make you laugh out loud, she will also make you look at that quiet old lady in the charity shop in a whole new light, with a whole new appreciation of not growing old gracefully or quietly.
Oh and if that older lady stood next to you in the charity shop is buying a very stylish black dress, smile and give her a copy of Deborah Moggach’s book.
The Black Dress is so far, my book of the year!
About the author
Deborah Moggach, OBE, is a British novelist and an award-winning screenwriter. She has written twenty novels, including Tulip Fever, These Foolish Things (which became the bestselling novel and film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), and The Carer. She lives in London.