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Old 3rd Jun 2007, 11:37   #1
John Self
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Default Book 32: THE LONELY PASSION OF JUDITH HEARNE by Brian Moore

A thread for this book, since a handful of us are reading it in June. I'm about a quarter way through, and it's highly recommended. (You might have expected me to say that, being a big fan of Moore's, but I couldn't remember a thing about the book since I first read it ten or more years ago.) More soon.
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Old 3rd Jun 2007, 16:25   #2
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Default Re: Book 32 - THE LONELY PASSION OF JUDITH HEARNE by Brian Moore

I fetched a library copy Friday and had a peek. Can't wait! By the way, my book is a first American edition, C 1955 with a plain cover and a mini-review glued to the frontspages. Will begin as soon as I finish The Girl in a Swing. Started a bit slowly but is becoming unforgettable.
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Old 3rd Jun 2007, 19:15   #3
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Default Re: Book 32 - THE LONELY PASSION OF JUDITH HEARNE by Brian Moore

I am about 50 pages in as well and enjoying every word. Moore's ability to "show" is remarkable and I am amazed at the insight he has into Judith's most private thoughts and insecurities.

I eagerly look forward to the discussion.
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Old 3rd Jun 2007, 22:26   #4
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Default Re: Book 32 - THE LONELY PASSION OF JUDITH HEARNE by Brian Moore

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Originally Posted by Megora View Post
I eagerly look forward to the discussion.
Me too. I've already read the book, but can't get round to writing an introductory post. It's a great novel, and there's many interesting points in it. I've thought about what I want to say, but to be honest, mostly I hope John will read it quickly, post a review before I be able to put together anything, and the discussion can be started from there. Yeah I know...

Anyway, there's one thing - I don't think it's been ever stated, but I think we can include spoilers freely in this forum, and without black blocking?
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Old 3rd Jun 2007, 22:31   #5
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Default Re: Book 32 - THE LONELY PASSION OF JUDITH HEARNE by Brian Moore

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mostly I hope John will read it quickly, post a review before I be able to put together anything, and the discussion can be started from there. Yeah I know...
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Old 4th Jun 2007, 0:12   #6
John Self
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Default Re: Book 32 - THE LONELY PASSION OF JUDITH HEARNE by Brian Moore

Ha! Your wish is my command, m. Give me a couple of days... But I know what you mean (I think) as there are so many aspects to the story (I'm just over halfway through) that it's hard to know where to begin discussion of it. I'm tempted to look into my recently-purchased Brian Moore: A Biography for a handy one-sentence summary of the themes.

And yes, I think we can use spoilers in this forum as everyone coming here is presumed to want a post-reading discussion of the book.
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Old 4th Jun 2007, 10:26   #7
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Default Re: Book 32 - THE LONELY PASSION OF JUDITH HEARNE by Brian Moore

I finished this this weekend (lots of travelling), but like m. said, I haven't yet gathered my thoughts together. I will try to give this book some sustained thought over the next day or so, but thought I might just mention my very hazy first impressions of it; maybe it will spark some discussion into life!

Initial impressions:
- reminded me of Muriel Spark (not just Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, but The Comforters also). I wasn't conscious of the connection being that they deal with Catholicism, though in retrospect this is obvious. It was something about the style, the very precise, witty, rich, yet sometime cruel style. And perhaps the reliability of the narrator

- enjoyed the chapter which gave each of the boarding house residents a long paragraph each, didn't enjoy so much having Madden's pov; I was very struck by how isolated and claustrophobic Miss Hearne's viewpoint was and it was a nice puzzle to try to work out how other's saw her. In fact, I wasn't too interested in Madden.

- found the description of her loss of faith particularly affecting, and the crisis at the end of the novel quite horrifying. I guess that's a fairly obvious statement, sorry! I was particularly affected by the statement Miss Hearne makes about having exchanged friendship for charity.
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Old 4th Jun 2007, 18:41   #8
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Default Re: Book 32 - THE LONELY PASSION OF JUDITH HEARNE by Brian Moore

One of the things I am enjoying most about this book is the way the author so effortlessly slips from the genaral happenings in the story into the thoughts of the characters and back. He is able to show the reader what everyone thinks at any given time without sidetracking, which adds a nice dimension to the novel and the characters.

I don't recall seeing this techique in other books I've read. It took me a while to get used to it as Moore uses no distinctive punctuation to accomplish that.

Still more than half-way to go, but wanted to mention this.

Great stuff, indeed.
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Old 4th Jun 2007, 22:46   #9
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Default Re: Book 32 - THE LONELY PASSION OF JUDITH HEARNE by Brian Moore

I agree entirely, Megora, though I hadn't noticed the effectiveness of this technique until you mentioned it (probably because it is so effective). He has tremendous ability.

Becca, I didn't think of Muriel Spark much, as I think Moore is far more clear and less enigmatic than Spark. Richard Yates came necessarily to mind (he and Moore were friends, after a fashion), but then he comes to mind when reading any 'depressing' book these days.

And yes, the crisis of faith is brilliantly - and horribly - done. Miss Hearne is always pitiable but never really likeable.

Anyway, here is my blog review, so excuse the extraneous stuff. Please pile in and disagree with it all. No spoilers to speak of.

---

Having acquired, via the wonders of online marketplaces, copies of all of Brian Moore’s books recently - over half are out of print - I thought it was time to return to his 1955 debut, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne. It remains his most famous book, even though the over-explanatory title was added only on release of the film version in 1989: for the first 34 years it was titled simply Judith Hearne. Now we’re told what to think about the title character before we meet her, which is a shame and, with Moore’s precise destruction of her character, needless.



Someone once suggested that Judith Hearne, among other Moore titles, offered reasons why Moore had left his native Belfast in the 1940s: the city and its society in the mid-20th century does not come out of the book well. We see it not only from Miss Hearne’s viewpoint, but also that of James Madden, who - like an embryonic Ginger Coffey in Moore’s third novel - left Northern Ireland for north America, and who failed too in a less comic way than Coffey. As a result Madden has nothing but contempt for the home (”an insult to senses attuned to immensity”) he has been forced to return to:

Quote:
Walking alone, he remembered New York, remembered that at ten-thirty in the morning New York would be humming with the business of making millions, making reputations, making all the buildings, all the merchandise, all the shows, all the wisecracks possible. While he walked in a dull city where men made money the way charwomen wash floors, dully, alone, at a slow methodical pace. … In the city’s shops housewives counted pennies against purchase. In the city’s banks, no great IBM machines clattered. Instead, clerkly men wrote small sums in long black ledgers.
One of the refreshing features of the novel is Moore’s ability to slip from one character’s thoughts to another’s, without ever seeming clumsy or muddling the point of view. Madden was, for me, an interesting enough character in his own right, and there are frequent diversions for us to see the world through others’ eyes, but always in the end Moore returns faithfully to the object of their fascination, derision, and horror, his title character.

Miss Judith Hearne is a Belfast woman in her ‘early forties,’ and at the beginning all we know of her is that she has moved to a new lodging house, in what “used to be one of the best parts of the city,” and where she spends most of her evenings “waiting like a prisoner for the long night hours.” She suffers, as we know, from loneliness, cripplingly so, though it is not her only ailment. She shuttles between her church, unloved and unloving friends, and useless hopes built on a man she has just met. The depth of her desperation is made cruelly clear by Moore when he shows us her daydreams of married life:

Quote:
He came into the room, late at night, tired after a day at work in his hotel. He took off his jacket and hung it up. He put his dressing gown on and sat down in his armchair and she went to him prettily, sat on his knee while he told her how things had gone that day. And he kissed her. Or, enraged about some silly thing she had done, he struck out with his great fist and sent her reeling, the brute. But, contrite afterwards, he sank to his knees and begged forgiveness.

Judy Hearne, she said, you’ve got to stop right this minute. Imagine romancing about every man that comes along.
What Moore gives us is a harrowing but vivid and gripping portrait of a woman chasing after the end of her tether as it disappears from view. There are some exceptionally powerful scenes involving both Miss Hearne and the other boarders in the house (a motley crew who sometimes recall the wartime misfits of Patrick Hamilton’s Slaves of Solitude), which it would be scandalous to reveal. Faith, in this mid-century Ulster where religion stifles all, is always an obligation and never a comfort. Moore has the cold eye and courage of Richard Yates, and rather more ability to mix a compelling plot with his devastating character portrayals. In fact it is the storyline which reveals the occasional weaknesses of the book, with a couple of forced developments along the way, and almost too much neatness by the end for such an otherwise beautifully messy tale.

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Old 5th Jun 2007, 8:38   #10
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Default Re: Book 32 - THE LONELY PASSION OF JUDITH HEARNE by Brian Moore

I'll try to post some thoughts this evening. Anyway -

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Miss Hearne is always pitiable but never really likeable.
For me, she was sometimes even more irritating than pitiable, but sometimes almost likeable. I suppose this is one of the reasons why I've rated this book high - that it made me really care about Judith, even though I didn't really like her.
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