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The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne Paperback – February 28, 1988

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 223 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; First Edition edition (February 28, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316579661
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316579667
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,278,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Novel by Brian Moore, published in 1955 as Judith Hearne, about an aging Irish spinster's disillusionment and her subsequent descent into alcoholism. The U.S. version was published in 1956 as The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne. Set in Belfast in the early 1950s, the novel is the study of a Roman Catholic woman who tries to gain the affection of James Madden, an unscrupulous retired man she meets at a local pub. Madden sees her as a potential investor in a business scheme, but she mistakenly infers a romantic interest. She begins to drink heavily, and she finds no comfort in her confession to an indifferent priest. Her disintegration is rapid, and she eventually becomes a resident at a nursing home. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature

From the Publisher

'Moore is surely one of the most versatile and compelling novelists writing today.' Daily Telegraph

Brian Moore's extraordinary talent was immediately recognised when The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, his debut novel, won the Authors' Club First Novel Award. A highly-acclaimed film based on the novel was recently made, starring Maggie Smith.

'I can't think of another living male novelist who writes about women with such sympathy and understanding.' Times Literary Supplement

'Remarkable... seldom in modern fiction has any character been revealed so completely or been made to seem so poignantly real.' New York Times

'An almost classic example of the power given by unity of theme... Mr Moore reveals all the qualities of a born novelist.' Sunday Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Mr. Moore's command of fictional technique is astonishing.
Joyce D. McGinnis
Nipping the bottle for liquid courage she finds its good ephemeral, and consequences often disastrous.
Laurie Holden
This is classic writing by a great writer who deserves a wider audience.
Michael Leone

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Cipriano on February 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
After cranking out a string of pot-boiler thrillers, Judith Hearne was Moore's debut venture into the world of the serious novel. Here he sought to depict the epic, cosmic conflicts that are under the surface of the most seemingly ordinary of lives. He set it squarely in 1950's Belfast, where he was raised as one of the Catholic minority. He hated Belfast, calling it a "claustrophobic, provincial backwater... trapped in the nightmare of history" and plagued equally with Protestant self-righteousness and Catholic repressiveness. All of these sentiments find their way into this, his first literary novel.
Judith, convent-raised, unmarried, and forty-something moves into Mrs. Rice's boarding house on Camden Street. It is her sixth relocation in the last few years. We find out WHY later. She teaches piano and embroidery to an ever diminishing handful of students, has very few possessions, and fewer social attachments. In fact, her only social involvement is tea with the O'Neill family on Sunday afternoons. Only later do we find how one-sided even this relationship is. The O'Neills secretly dread her visits.
We are soon to sense the brooding cloud of narrowness, plainness, loneliness, and ignorance that hovers over this poor soul. Moore captures it. Even her physical frame, he says, is "plain as a cheap clothes rack."
To sustain herself she lives in a world of religious faith and imagination... or illusion. She daydreams, and surrounds herself with iconic totems from her uneventful past. And she has a secret vice that isn't revealed until almost midway in the novel. She's a(n) _____! (I won't say).
The novel revolves around Judith's interactions with the many other residents of Mrs. Rice's home.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Joyce D. McGinnis on June 30, 2007
Format: Paperback
This slender novel is a master class in fiction writing. I've read it at least ten times, and every time I learn something new. Mr. Moore's command of fictional technique is astonishing. He uses the basic elements of the craft (point of view, narrative voice, recurring details, etc.) like brushstrokes in a painting. Bit by bit, sentence by sentence, Judith Hearne and the people around her are revealed. The plot moves forward with the inevitability of a Greek tragedy, and when the climax comes, we are devastated. We know everything there is to know about this plain, brave, flawed woman, and we know that things could not have turned out otherwise for her.

In addition to its flawless execution, this book reveals an almost unbearable depth of compassion for human weakness and a keen understanding of human nature. While Judith Hearne may seem to belong very much to a particular time and place, we should not be so quick to label the book a period piece. We are still struggling to connect to each other, to find love and security, to reconcile faith and fact. Mr. Moore's themes are timeless. As long as there are human beings, Judith Hearne will have something to teach them. Her story gives us much to mourn about who (and what) we are, but in revealing her to us, Mr. Moore also gives us much to celebrate.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. Please read it.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Paul Raymont on February 3, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Brian Moore published The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (originally called simply Judith Hearne), in 1955 after he had left Belfast for Montreal. For this book Moore won the Author's Club First Novel Award. The book appears on the Guardian's list of 1000 books 'everyone must read'. A 1988 movie of the same name starred Maggie Smith and Bob Hoskins. Graham Greene called Moore his 'favourite living novelist'.

Moore plumbs the turbid soul of a desperately lonely woman who's on the verge of becoming an old spinster. She's done in by the repressive mores of her culture, which she has internalized and of which she's largely uncritical. (Moore based Hearne loosely on one of his mother's friends, Mary Judith Keogh.) The other character whose thoughts are probed at length is James Madden, Hearne's last chance at a husband. He, too, has outlived his dreams and, like Hearne, drifts though his days in fear and frustration, which are relieved only by vices that promise short-term relief but long-term doom.

Moore's story is marred by some heavy-handed symbols (an empty church, e.g.), and I grew impatient with the protracted torments to which the author subjected poor Judy Hearne. Nevertheless, the book is a masterful and disturbing study of the demolition of a life by loneliness.

Hearne seeks refuge from her isolation in weekly visits with a happy and prosperous family whose patriarch she has known since childhood. She half knows that the family members generally dread her visits, but she goes to them anyway out of sheer desperation for human contact. These portions of the book are pretty painful, for Moore makes it clear that the family members don't take Hearne seriously as a person. They treat her more as an ongoing bad joke.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 22, 1998
Format: Paperback
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearn is probably one of the most beautiful books in contempory Irish literature. Brian Moore treats Judy Hearn with a completely unbiased nature; he is definitely in touch with the character's values, and her flaws. Moore has shaped a novel of his time and Ireland's people that will probably influence many for years to come.
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