The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore

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Courtesy Harper
Loneliness, loss of faith
and alcoholism in 1950s Ireland are just some of the “cheerful” themes Brian
Moore tackles in his portrayal of Judith Hearne.
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne was first published in 1955 under the simple title
of Judith Hearne and was Moore’s
first book penned under his own name. It is still regarded today as one of his
very best works, although initially it was rejected 12 times before being
accepted by publisher André Deutsch Ltd.
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne
Judith Hearne is a single
woman in her 40s with not much to recommend her. She has spent most of her
adult life nursing a sick aunt who has now past away but she still dreams of
one day living a full life, marrying a fine gentleman and being someone that
people notice.
But Judith’s hopes are
fading, along with her faith. She has no money, no real skills to get a job, is
desperate to be loved and is fond of the bottle.
When the novel opens we
learn that Judith has just moved into a new bed-sitting room (one of many in
the past few years) but we don’t learn why until the story unfolds. As she
unpacks her two most treasured belongings, a photo of her dead aunt and a one
of the Sacred Heart, we get a sense of her character and sparse life.
The lodging house is also
home to a number of characters, none of them appealing or nice. Amongst them is
the landlady’s brother James Madden who has just returned to Ireland after many
years living and working in the United States. 
It is in him Judith sees the
potential to escape from her world and find a new life.  She sees a man of the world whose own life
has been filled with adventures and who appears to have money.  They form a friendship and she raises her hopes
but Madden has other plans on his mind, mainly business, and both make
assumptions about each other that prove disastrous.
As their friendship
unravels, so too does Judith’s trust of her faith and she spirals into a
spiritual and emotional breakdown.
The Writing of Judith
When Moore wrote Judith
Hearne he said, “I was very lonely, I had almost no friends, I’d given up
my beliefs, was earning no money and I didn’t see much of a future. So I could
identify with a dipsomaniac, isolated spinster.” BBC News Online 12
January, 1999.
Moore’s bleak portrayal of
Belfast in the 1950s has been suggested as one of the main reasons he left
Ireland to live in Canada and then the United States.
About Brian Moore
Brian Moore was born in
Belfast, Ireland in 1921 and died in Malibu, USA in 1999. He wrote 18 books
under his own name and many screenplays, was short-listed for the Booker Prize
three times and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Sunday Express
Book of the Year.
Several of his books were
also made into movies, including The
Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne
which starred Maggie Smith as Judith.
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore (Harper Perennial imprint of Harper
Collins, 2007, ISBN: 13 978-0-00-725561-0, 255 pages.)
My rating: ★★★

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