Madeleine: A Life of Madeleine St John
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Madeleine St John had a brilliant, creative mind and wrote four remarkable novels, including the irrepressibly optimistic and lovely Australian classic The Women in Black. But her personal life was anything but happy. Helen Trinca has captured the troubled life of Madeleine St John in this touching account.
he feel it in any way to be his duty. He did express some sympathy for Chris.’19 Chris was knocked by Ted’s response, but for Madeleine, it was just another rejection by her father. She realised she would simply have to wait her turn at Beth Israel public hospital. Madeleine had worked for a time at the Co-op Book Shop in Harvard Square, but she found her mental state improved after she stopped working. ‘The mess is still there [but] I can control it,’ she told Felicity: When I start therapy,
was so upset by the comparison with Ted’s absence that she scarcely spoke. She was always beautifully groomed and made-up in Sydney, but she let herself go in the country, tying her hair up in a scarf, and wearing safety pins for Madeleine’s nappies in her dress. She ‘gets around all day with no makeup and no stockings and doesn’t do her hair’, Margaret wrote to John. One day, Margaret threatened to take a photo of Sylvette and send it to Ted. ‘The next day you could not see her for the war
most of the day & I think—about very little, I must add. I’ve written one more poem, about animals at Cambridge. It isn’t finished yet. This is such a dull letter, and really I did not mean it to be. I wouldn’t say that I am dull exactly—it’s just that anything real I have to communicate now is terribly hard to sort out and write down, or even say. For a start, I am finding people very threatening & much time and spirit seems to get wasted & every issue is confused by various defensive
meals. (As you may have found.)’39 For Madeleine, in fact, there was a good deal of sleeping in late. And in the afternoons she stretched out on the lounge with Puck and watched movies on television. She consumed popular culture and even enjoyed Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Perhaps she identified with Buffy’s desire to control her world and her statement, ‘The hardest thing in his world is to live in it.’40 Madeleine loved Clueless, the 1995 Hollywood teen comedy broadly based on Jane Austen’s
the Gardenias. Thank you. The piece was not published. Perhaps it was deemed too elliptical for the paper, or perhaps they knew that it would be impossible to convince Madeleine that it needed editing. Madeleine was incandescent when it was dropped. She had laboured over it and now the press was trampling on her childhood.21 Sarah carried the load. She realised Madeleine was so vulnerable that writing would only become more difficult for her. Lutyens & Rubinstein now did everything possible to