A hilarious and heart-warming novel about the true meaning of ‘for better or worse’ – both in marriage and friendship.
"Jane Austen meets Rosalie Ham in this utterly delightful new novel from Barbara Toner... You’ll love every minute because her words are sprinkled with gold dust."
Teresa Smith Writes (blog)
Four Respectable Ladies Seek The Meaning Of Wife
‘Marriage isn’t always a bed of roses. And there are many ways to be a wife,’ the vicar informs the town...
It’s 1930, and as the Depression overtakes rural New South Wales, what it means to be a wife tests the four respectable ladies of Prospect to their very limit.
Louisa Worthington fled to the city ten years ago, pregnant, poor and under a cloud of scandal. Now she’s back - blonde and brazen - with her heart set on the married son of the town’s mayor.
Adelaide Nightingale, newly widowed and starved of romance, yearns for adoration, security and a version of herself defined by beauty not business.
Maggie Albright dreams of empire building, but is hamstrung by her over-cautious husband who grows less handsome by the day.
Then there’s Pearl Fletcher, happily married to Joe, the district’s most successful sheep farmer, but protecting a secret that could tear their family apart.
And hovering in the town’s shadows is a ghost from their past. A man newly released from jail ruthlessly bent on exploiting the ladies’ hopes and fears to get what he wants. And what he wants is Louisa...
Barbara Toner's current and back catalogue of fiction and non-fiction books
are available to buy or order from book stores and on-line booksellers.
Cracking America 2003
An Organised Woman 1996
All You Need To Know 1997
Brain Street 1986
The Infernal Triangle ( as Tessa Wood) 1987
Married Secrets ( as Tessa Wood) 1984
Published by Penguin Random House Australia
2 April 2019
Available as an audiobook via Audible
For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health.
Loving vows or a life sentence?
These dilemmas are at the heart of Barbara Toner’s latest novel, Four Respectable Ladies Seek the Meaning of Wife. It’s 1930 and the effects of the Depression are being keenly felt. Whether you were a wife or desperate to become a wife, choices were limited, mostly to men who lived nearby.
The Meaning of Wife explores the nature of attraction, love, married life and the many ways reality differs from the ideal. It’s as relevant today as it was in the 1930s.
Published by Penguin Random House Australia 2018
A charming and witty novel, set in a small Australian country town in 1919
It’s September 1919. The war is over, and everyone who was going to die from the flu has done so. But there’s a shortage of husbands and women in strife will flounder without a male to act on their behalf. Four young women in rural New South Wales take drastic action with scandalous consequences.
'Loveable to the end . . . with a cast of colourful characters.'
Published by Hutchinson 2003
Country-singing orphan from Cockfosters pushes her luck one step too far seeking stardom in Nashville
Twenty year old country singer, Honey, is addicted to trouble and attracted to dangerous men. She sings of love and loss like a girl from Tennessee, although she lives in Cockfosters at the end of the Piccadilly line. She dreams of Nashville and of a man who is decent and true. Her best friend says dreaming will be the death of her.
"Like Catcher in the Rye... funny dark and original, this is a wonderful read"
Published by Hutchinson 1996
Control freak running a rehab centre is sabotaged by family
The story of a woman who runs a successful addiction clinic. Her personal life is a mess, and she must confront her own demons, in particular her relationships with her father and sister, in order to come to terms with own frailties.
"Wickedly funny novel – murder, accusations, lies, lust and betrayal – who could ask for anything more "
Published by Hutchinson 1997
Teenage beauty wreaks havoc in Sydney suburbia as she discovers looks aren’t everything
It's 1958. Sydney's upper north shore is a model of refinement and harmony. Then along comes Kitty Page, a 17-year-old platinum blonde with a sharp eye for beauty and truth.
"Sparkling, acutely observed, gripping and wickedly funny"
Mail on Sunday
"Toner’s grasp of rebellion and seduction is unique"
Good Book Guide
Published by Macdonald Futura
Barbarity among the upper middle classes as South London is gentrified
Everyone knows what goes on behind the bookshelves in the Harveys’ loft extension. Giles Parker did run over the whippet from No. 3, and Jill’s pot-au-feu may well have been responsible for the untimely death of the greedy lady from Putney. Tempers fray, friendships curdle and revenge spreads among the upwardly-mobile, tree-lined terrace that is Brain Street.”
"The funniest novel I have read this year, a true comedy of manners"
"A really hilarious tale . Barbara Toner’s fast funny style has you laughing out loud in delight"
Published by Macdonald Futura |1988
Showbizz family goes to extreme lengths to maintain high profile
This book is a biting satirical look at the desperate desire to be famous by a family of very privileged, very interesting characters. It cuts close to the bone of modern society's obsession with their 15 minutes of fame. Funny, current and incisive.
"Barbara Toner is funny, sharp and uncomfortably perceptive"
Wildly funny, sharply honed satire … a hilarious cautionary tale of our self-centered times, a treat of a novel"
Published by Macdonald Futura 1987
Fantasy breeding suspicion threatens happy family life - second Tessa Wood novel
The tortured genius and housewife known and loved by millions of Woman readers
The second Tessa Wood novel.
"Barbara Toner is excellent at the trivia of domestic life"
"This chronicle of mayhem is a delight from start to finish … funniest book in ages"
St Albans and District Observer
Published by Allen & Unwin 2012
Revised and updated mother’s guide to life
Ignoring the universal truth that advice should only be offered if sought, this light-hearted guide to dealing with life's eternal dilemmas will appeal as much to mothers as it does to daughters.
An indispensable guide to be shared by mothers and daughters of all ages everywhere
Kindle E Book edition
Published by Hardie Grant 2011
A manual for domestic life
This handbook to 21st century living covers everything from changing a tyre to surviving divorce. It addresses all kinds of households, from the single to the traditional nuclear fand the wildly extended.
It applies painstaking research and empathy to all aspects of domestic life, ensuring s that anyone with a roof over their head can find the help they need—whether it’s how to mend a sock, hire a plumber, light a fire or leave home.
Published by Hodder 1997
Based on Barbara Toner's weekly column in You magazine, a supplement of the Mail on Sunday
Of appeal to mothers and daughters of all ages, this manual provides wit and wisdom on the eternal dilemmas of life.
Barbara covers areas from psychic flashes, childbirth and seduction to beauty tips, time management, hitting people and getting a mortgage. Home-craft doesn't get much respect, but what it means to be a mother does.
Published by Hodder 1998
A follow-up to A Mother's Guide To Life
Surviving a marriage, since it entails in separating from the family of one's birth to embrace a man whose family's ways may include slurping, is no mean undertaking, This insightful guide to husbands includes advice on honeymoons, handymen and marital fatigue, how to argue in public and keep a social life and the true meaning of Christmas.
Published by Hutchinson 1977 | Reprinted 1981
An outspoken and controversial report
During the Seventies, Barbara Toner was so shocked by the appallingly low conviction rate for rape that she wrote a book exposing the weaknesses in the system. It covers a controversial trial that tested the interpretation of consent as well as an in-depth examination of the crime’s social and cultural connotations.
The revised and updated edition of this outspoken and controversial report
Published by Arrow 1975
A Practical Guide For Working Mothers
When Barbara had her first child at 23 she found herself looking for advice on how to juggle a career with motherhood. She found nothing, so she wrote her first book, Double shift: A Practical Guide For Working Mothers. The book caused a stir – mothers were not supposed to take jobs outside the home - and earmarked Barbara as "a feminist writer before feminist writers were being taken seriously".
Photograph Toni Ward
arbara Toner is an acclaimed author and columnist who has written extensively about the lot of women in all its manifestations and with all its glorious intricacies, both in fiction and non fiction. Her first two books, Double Shift, and The Facts of Rape were written at a time when there was demonstrably little fair play for women in the work force, the law courts or society in general.
With the arrival of her third daughter, Barbara chose to attack the iniquities in a lighter tone via a long-running column in Woman magazine. Tales from Tessa Wood, stories from a fictional marriage, charted the frustrations of a receptionist with a boring working life and an even less interesting marriage. It spawned two Tessa Wood novels, Married Secrets and The Infernal Triangle which led to contracts for Brain Street (tensions and upward mobility in South London) and The Need To Be Famous (a family‘s unseemly quest for the limelight).
Barbara wrote three further novels All You Need to Know (beautiful girl gets her looks into perspective), An Organised Woman (sisters struggle for supremacy) and Cracking America (fate versus circumstance in Nashville) while writing a column on home life for YOU magazine in the Mail on Sunday. That column inspired A Mothers Guide To Life (updated and renamed Because I Love You in 2012) and A Mother’s Guide to Husbands, each of which ignored the universal truth that advice should only be offered if sought.
After a stint as a columnist for the Guardian, Barbara began to divide her time between London and a house on the far south coast of NSW. She has since written What To Do About Everything, a modern household manual, Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband, (scandal and empowerment in rural NSW in 1919) and Four Respectable Ladies Seek The Meaning Of Wife. This will be published on April 2nd, 2019
Barbara is married, has three daughters, five grandchildren and continues to live between homes in the UK and Australia.
"Everyone in my family is good with words one way or another, probably because our father took such pleasure from them. He could transform Sunday lunch with ‘Propinquity and propensity- Discuss!’ As far as I can remember, no one took him up on the discussion but we all inherited his enjoyment in the niceties of language and it is a great gift. The downside is that we’re a family of pedants. Sticklers for correct pronunciation if nothing else. That I’m the only full-time writer in my generation is a matter of luck. I got in first, baggsing it with my poem Dan Dan The Ice-cream Man when I was four.
I knew at once I was no poet. I wanted to write books. When I was ten my mother asked what kind of books. She’d heard textbooks sold well. That’s what she said. What she meant was if I were going to write, in order not to starve I’d need an income. I became a journalist when I was 17 but I still wanted to be a novelist. Knowing how to become one was the issue. How had Thackeray produced Vanity Fair? (That’s where I was aiming!) How could a story so complete, so compelling and with so many words, exit a head and arrive perfectly formed on the printed page. It was a matter of mystery and awe.
In the end, I dived in without grace or form or any idea at all as to method.
On the strength of a couple of successful non-fiction books, which I’d approached as very long pieces of journalism, I applied for and was given a young writer’s Commonwealth Literary Scholarship. With Catch 22 on the desk next to me for guidance, I wrote an untitled novel about a woman who grew a penis and was consigned to a clinic for the restoration of sexual normality. My then agent liked it and so did the friend who typed it up for me. But no one else. And here I learnt the single most important thing a novelist in waiting needs to know. Rejection isn’t the end. You chuck it aside and press on. I pressed on.
I crept up on novels via characters invented for a magazine column until finally I found a method that suited me. I don’t know if it produces good books or just books that I start and finish. I’m rarely pleased with them. But I love the process, even on days when it has nothing to recommend it other than the fun of choosing what to say and how best to say it "
Barbara Toner 2019
"Because I remember my own confusion and floundering, I occasionally run a course for up to five people explaining how a book can be converted from a pile of mush in your head to a coherent body of work on a page.
It’s not a creative writing course. It an explanation of the method I use which gives me a kind of template that guides me from my beginning, through the middle to the end. It isn’t how everyone works, just how I work. It’s run over two days and there is homework."
To make an enquiry about Barbara's writing courses in detail please write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
"Barbara Toner’s two day course is worth its weight in gold. Within a day of finishing it, I had a clear idea of tone, theme, storyline and structure and I had written my first thousand words." AN
"I believe your format was excellent along with the way you handled each student. Very personalised. I was nervous but you put each of us at ease. You offered the practical side of writing a story." VC
"You are an excellent teacher … I enjoyed the hands on approach and … how you’ve equally engaged with all of us. I certainly learned a lot and you’ve done a good job of getting the basics of story into our heads." SF
"By far, the best investment I have made in my future and mental health was a course with Barbara. After only two days with her, I have the knowledge, tools, confidence, and passion to unleash the book in me." TG
"There’s a school of thought that journalists make lousy novelists and there might be plenty of evidence for it, but it doesn’t stop a great many of us from having a go because it’s what we wanted to do in the first place. I love being a journalist and remain extremely grateful for all the opportunities the job has given me, including the chance to write columns and bang on to my heart’s content. It’s a far tougher arena now than it used to be but the way in has never been easy.
In Australia in the late sixties it was via a ladder which started on a bottom rung laden with a copy boys and girls and ended in death. Someone died at the top of the ladder (or just fell off), so everyone moved up a rung and the person who’d been a copy boy or girl longest was promoted to a cadetship which lasted four years. I never became a cadet because, after 18 months as a copy girl waiting for the death, I quarrelled with a sub-editor and resigned in lowish but irretrievable dudgeon.
Shortly afterwards I was offered a graded journalist’s job on Pix, a magazine devoted mostly to fishing and pin-ups, whose excellent editor was a huge fan of great interviews as seen in Esquire. He invited me to try my hand at the great interview and suggested I read for inspiration Gay Talese’s ‘Frank Sinatra Has A Cold’. I was seventeen so pretty sure I could pull it off.
This editor was patience itself and published my interviews. He also encouraged me to write humorous pieces about me looking silly doing something and a column called Toner Talking. The column was abysmal. I had no thoughts worth relaying. However, he gave me a great start and since then I’ve written for most of the UK nationals. I don’t always write about the lot of women, but I like to, not because I understand it better than anyone else but because I don’t and would like to."