Irish writer Brian Moore was shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times, but never won the big award during his lifetime. This book did not actually make the shortlist, but was translated into a film I need to hunt out starring Maggie Smith and Bob Hoskins. There is a preview clip on Youtube, and it looks to be faultlessly true to the novel, but I fear it won’t make for very uplifting viewing…
While reading this book, the heart bleeds for woebegone, gin-besmirched Judith Hearne (saying nothing) and her slow loss of hold on her martyred existence.
We cringe at her side as the prim façade slowly cracks and slips away to reveal the awful truth of her lack of prospects and the uncertain future that lies ahead – you know that phrase, ‘it’s all downhill from here’…
It’s a heart-rending story, and Brian Moore clearly felt very strongly about the universal issues of faith and doubt. I found a quote on the BBC website, where he says of himself at the time of writing this book:
“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.”
Don’t let you put that off though. Wow, this man could write. His tale packs a punch low in the gut, and he writes with devastating perception about the feelings of isolation and inner battles with faith – hardly surprising that he was so well respected. What’s so wonderful about all this reading is that you can take a few steps back in time to an era you didn’t live through, and find universal messages mixed up with current topics. Mesmerising.
I am also very keen to discover another of his shortlisted novels now, “The Doctor’s Wife” (not the Doctor Who version!), which apparently tells the tale of just that: a doctor’s wife from Belfast, who takes an American lover eleven years her junior while in Paris.
Will report back, if I haven’t run off with any forty year olds in the meantime, huh, two chances (fat chance …) …
Read in November 2014.
Rating : a truly heartfelt 8/10