“O Merciful Mother, what have I done to deserve this?” – The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne
Sincere apologies for the lack of posts over this past month and a half. An internet connection can be difficult to come by on the road in continental Europe. No longer having easy access to cyberspace, I am reluctant to admit, was a state I secretly relished. However, I digress. Despite a failure to communicate via computer, I managed to get a lot of reading done. Namely, a book by Brian Moore titled The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne. It was first published in 1955 and I read it while in the idyllic Spanish sea town of Puerto Banus. There, I would have lunch in a little cafe called Salt and Pepper which made decadently delicious shrimp wraps.
Moore was a favourite of Graham Greene and, unsurprisingly, a principle trope in his literature is the Catholic religion. Judith Hearne is a single woman in her forties who has little money and delusions of grandeur. The reader is introduced to her as she moves into a bedsit in Belfast. No reasons are given as to why she has changed residence, but all is revealed as the story unfolds in a series of surprising plot twists.
The house she inhabits is peopled by an array of characters who are all grotesque in one respect or another. Judith Hearne is not particularly likeable herself and this provokes the intense pity the reader feels for her as the novel progresses. She falls in love with her landlady’s brother, but eventually discovers that he has ulterior motives. Her entire life is underpinned by the rigid rules and regulations imposed on Irish society by the Catholic Church.
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne is depressing, but also speckled with instances of dark humour. Moore subtly makes fun of Hearne and her little habits, as he does with all his characters. It is this approach, I believe, which makes the novel worth reading. Judith Hearne is real because she is not idealised and Moore, among other things, criticises the Catholic Church for demanding perfection of its followers.