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The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  2,394 ratings  ·  274 reviews
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne is an unflinching and deeply sympathetic portrait of a woman destroyed by self and circumstance. First published in 1955, it marked Brian Moore as a major figure in English literature (he would go on to be short-listed three times for the Booker Prize) and established him as an astute chronicler of the human soul.

Judith Hearne is an unma

Paperback, 223 pages
Published February 28th 1988 by Back Bay Books (first published 1955)
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Janet M Pretty much so. There is one rape scene but it isn't graphic (not involving the main character). I noticed very few, if any, swear words.

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 ·  2,394 ratings  ·  274 reviews

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Jan 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Judith Hearne, a Catholic middle-aged spinster, moves into yet another bed-sit in Belfast. A socially isolated woman of modest means, she teaches piano to a handful of students to pass the day. Her only social activity is tea with the O'Neill family, who secretly dread her weekly visits.

After finishing the wonderful Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman which also deals with similar themes albeit on a much more humorous level I wanted to revisit Judith Herne as I had enjoyed it so much firs
Aug 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think you're as lonely as a Sunday morning
That never had a Saturday night.

That's Judy Hearne, all right, though she honestly likes Sundays. It's the one day each week when she has plenty to do. First, there's church, followed by her visit to the O'Neill household for tea. She has such fun thinking of the stories she will tell and the gossip she will share.

It began with the long tram ride to their house which gave you plenty of time to rehearse the things you would tell them, interesting
Hannah Garden
Oct 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Oh sweet lord if there is a more excruciatingly, exquisitely, exactingly, deliriously wretched little book out there, I don't think I could even handle it.

What an absolute motherfucking masterpiece.
Oct 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I tried to think of a more depressing novel than Brian Moore's The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, and I came up with exactly nada. Even Holocaust literature usually aspires to some mitigating, redemptive element to remind the reader that—even though the world is a sick, twisted, hateful, miserable, incomprehensibly fucked-up place—there are still nooks and crannies of goodness to be found here and there. (Or what passes for goodness on the sliding scale of values, at any rate.) Mitigation is s ...more
This bleak, raw powerful story of the mental disintegration of a lonely Belfast spinster was a very accomplished debut novel that must have seemed quite modern in 1955.

At the start of the book we see Judith Hearne moving into new lodgings in the house of Mrs Henry Rice. The first half of the book is quite comic in tone, with darker undercurrents that increase as the story proceeds. Judith has sacrificed her best years to caring for a tyrannical aunt, and now has occasional work as a piano teach
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, nyrb, ireland, fiction
There is someone in my life who partly reminds me of Judith Hearne. Along with Judith, this person has the complete inability to see things from other’s point of view, or to see reality in the harsh light of day. As a result, her entire outlook and perceptions of people are severely skewed. Judith’s clinginess and desperation is awkward to read about if you know someone like that. She’s a grasping for attention sort of person (talk to me, like me, be my friend, please!)

What could he be thinking
Such a sad story of a tortured soul. A beautifully executed novel that does pack a wallop. I've had this novel in my to be read pile for years and have had a lot of recommendations for it but the timing just wasn't right for the read.

It's an emotionally draining read, of a complex woman, her "battle" with alcohol, her guilt, and her faith. I can't remember having read a novel where a male author has been able to portray a woman so finely, delicately as the author was able to do in this novel.

Oct 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the saddest stories I've ever read regarding a woman's life ... so much the victim to her background and times. Judith's wanting to be loved in spite of everything and yet failing is terribly upsetting... there was a moment I stop reading as I felt so much pity for her ... No passion that can be shared for Judith ...
Jan 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, classics, favorites
In Vito veritas: "in wine, truth", suggesting a person under the influence of alcohol is more likely to speak their hidden thoughts and desires.

The saying that comes to mind is, "if you don’t laugh you’ll cry”. This book was so densely bleak yet with enough comic undertones that I found it surprisingly humorous at times. Poor Judy is a pitiful character, who is so sorrowful for all the crosses she’s had to bear. She is a devout Catholic whose weakness will be tempted and faith will be tested. Th
I set aside a book about wind I was reading so I could read this one. But books don't like that and the wind never quits, not really, and so it wasn't long before I read this: they went out through the brightly lit lobby, past the waiting queues, out into the night wind which rushed like a thief along the streets.

Of the they, one of them could be a thief. But there's nothing to steal but loneliness. The other of they is the eponymous Judith Hearne. And lonely she is. Eleanor Rigby had more frie
Jennifer (aka EM)
Dec 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people whose faith in either direction is strong enough to take it
Recommended to Jennifer (aka EM) by: David via review
Happy St. Patrick's Day. <--insert irony emoticon here-->

Holy moly, faith an' begorrah. This Brian Moore guy ... I think I love him (even) more than Graham Greene, which is the most obvious comparison. I devoured this, reading ravenously to 3 a.m. this morning. Judith! Poor Judith. Is there any one of us who doesn't feel for her? Feel *like* her? (view spoiler)

Seven things for now:

1) Feels like Slaves of Solitude,
Sep 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
The shoe eyes staring at Judith Hearne throughout the novel, accusing, laughing along, leering, laughing at. Finally indifferent, like all, nearly all she meets, particularly men. A masterful piece of writing, cleverly and so economically done. Some parts are from different povs which gets you through the plot in an efficient way, and gives sidelights and other views on the protagonist. The last few chapters when the character goes from address to address in her hired car is almost insanely econ ...more
Jonathan Pool
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booker-mookse
My initial reaction to The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne was to be thankful that the attitudes prevalent in the 1950’s, and particularly the objectification of women, seem so anachronistic in 2018. This book was published in 1955. Judith herself expresses fears that are standard fare for novels written in the c.18th century, the Austen era. Women were at risk of becoming lonely, reclusive, impoverished; unfulfilled spinsters and childless aunts.... unless they could pursuade a man, preferable ...more
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
One of the finest novels I've ever read. Moore is brilliant. I majored in English Lit and took grad seminars and I am angry -- why have I never heard of Brian Moore before reading Howard Norman's "Next Life Might Be Kinder", which mentions him? This book belongs on all of the top 100 novels of all time and I place it in the top 10.

Judith Hearne is complex, infuriating, pathetic, deluded, grasping, drunk, annoying, sympathetic. Moore gives us every inch of Judith Hearne, every thought, frustratio
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
"Denn alles Fleisch ist wie Gras
und alle Herrlichkeit des Menschen
wie des Grases Blumen.
Das Gras ist verdorret
und die Blume abgefallen....So seid nun geduldig, lieben Brüder,
bis auf die Zukunft des Herrn.
Siehe, ein Ackermann wartet
auf die köstliche Frucht der Erde
und ist geduldig darüber... Herr, lehre doch mich,
daß ein Ende mit mir haben muß,
und mein Leben ein Ziel hat,
und ich davon muß."

"For all flesh is as grass,
and the glory of man
like flowers.
The grass withers
and the flower falls...Therefo
Dhanaraj Rajan
Oct 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature, irish-lit
One of the saddest stories I have read in the recent times........

It is about a forty year old Catholic plain looking poor spinster (Judith Hearne) whose sole aim is to be married and to have a home to share with someone. Her sick aunt, under whose care Judith grew as a teenager and a young girl, sees to it that Judith never finds a man and a job for the aunt wanted Judith to be with her as a nurse till the end of her death. When the aunt dies, Judith is above thirty with no money, no job and no
May 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book was simply devastating. Judy, a spinster, who is devoutly religious, a tad martyrish, and woefully unaware of her own reality, takes up residence at yet a new boarding house (this whole concept of shared living that seemed to be so common Back Then but now seemingly obsolete really fascinates me) where she meets a single man. In Judy's classic way she immediately assumes more to the connection than there is, and the story quickly details the devastation of Judy, who is also mishandling ...more
If we don't have our delusions how can we live? This is well written heartbreaking masterpiece of a book.
Katie Long
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quietly devastating. It's a book that is hard to sum up in a review because I couldn't possibly convey the depth of both despair and empathy that Moore was able to draw into Judith's story. It is one no review can prepare you for, it simply has to be read.
Jul 15, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beginning with a sigh of regret and ending with a sob of resignation, Brian Moore has created a character-driven novel of grief, sadness, and utter loneliness set in the shabby and bedraggled streets of Belfast during the 1950's. In spite of a dismal landscape, a series of blemished characters, and a profound aura of failure, this is a book of extraordinary beauty written in seamless prose. It is a work that is so cinematic in description that one need not know that the 1955 novel was transforme ...more
Liina Bachmann
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, favorites
I would dare to say “The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne” is a perfect novel. Perfect in length, character development, plot, the authenticity of setting, dialogue - everything.

It is about a spinster “Judith Hearne who is “plain” and “on the wrong side on the 40’s”. She has been brought up to marry well, to have a man take care of her. This doesn’t go according to plan. She is lonely. So lonely it hurts to read about it. With a strict Catholic upbringing, she still has faith though. That the Mr
Feb 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is not an easy book to read, especially if you're intent on avoiding tales of depression and disintegration. Set in the 1950s in Belfast, in a very Catholic population among the larger Protestant majority, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore tells of a fortyish spinster who bets it all on a former hotel doorman who's been to America.

But alas, all that James Madden is interested in is not Judith, but finding an investment partner for opening an American style diner in Dublin.
Jun 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ana by: Bookslut blog
Shelves: fiction
How to recommend a book full of utter despair and hopelessness? But I will.
This is a book that I'm envious of, envious of not having written it. Even if it was written 22 years before i was born ;o)

Moore managed to get himself inside the head of Judith in a brilliant way. Her yearning for something, some sort of connection, making her see things that weren't there. Hoping against hope that her situation will change even as she does almost nothing to change it.

I suppose this book couldn't really
Moira Russell
Beautifully written, but (and?) glum, glum, glum and grim. Slightly reminiscent of Jean Rhys, except even more hopeless and drab -- Moore's prose style is good, but not as diamond-hard and faceted as hers, and the Rhys women at least get to rebel. This is the story from the other side, a life crushed into conformity. One of the few books I've read that manages to thoroughly de-mythologize Ireland (which also means un-Joyceing it, altho you can see a bit of Dubliners peeking out now and then). On ...more
Aug 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 05, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: The plain, the unloved and the unlovable.
The titular lonely lady lives in a bedsit in a Belfast street I know well, as my parents own a house there which is rented out to students. I was therefore aware of this book from a young age, but it had an exotic taint to it, as it was anti-Church, and perhaps involved immoral living.

Anyway, I've read it now, and enjoyed it. I'm a little uneasy when a male writer attempts to get into the head of an unloved spinster, and I was occasionally alarmed by the unreformed sexual attitudes that one mus
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First published in 1955, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne is a novel by the Northern Irish writer, Brian Moore. It’s a book I’ve been saving for quite a while, thinking that it might be my kind of read. Turns out I was right, as it’s definitely one of the best novels I’ve read in recent months, if not this year. It also features a rather marvellous boarding-house setting, an element that generally ticks all the right boxes for me.

The story itself is achingly sad, a tragic tale of grief, delus
Mar 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jul 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Take what might be a fairly typical Irish boarding house drama, add a lot of Catholic doubt and guilt plus a forlorn, aging spinster and her awful matron landlady, and this novel is what you'll get. It made me so sad I might skip my planned gin & tonic this evening. I wouldn't call this a tender or sentimental story, but rather, a devastating treatment of Belfast's most vulnerable class. Tragic, on a very small scale.

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Brian Moore (1921–1999) was born into a large, devoutly Catholic family in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His father was a surgeon and lecturer, and his mother had been a nurse. Moore left Ireland during World War II and in 1948 moved to Canada, where he worked for the Montreal Gazette, married his first wife, and began to write potboilers under various pen names, as he would continue to do throughout ...more

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“She watched the glass, a plain woman, changing all to the delightful illusion of beauty. There was still time: for her ugliness was destined to bloom late, hidden first by the unformed gawkiness of youth, budding to plainness in young womanhood and now flowering to slow maturity in her early forties, it still awaited the subtle garishness which only decay could bring to fruition: a garishness which, when arrived at, would preclude all efforts at the mirror game.” 6 likes
“For it was important to have things to tell which interested your friends. And Miss Hearne had always been able to find interesting happenings where other people would find only dullness. It was, she often felt, a gift which was one of the great rewards of a solitary life. And a necessary gift. Because, when you were a single girl, you had to find interesting things to talk about. Other women always had their children and shopping and running a house to chat about. Besides which, their husbands often told them interesting stories. But a single girl was in a different position. People simply didn’t want to hear how she managed things like accommodation and budgets. She had to find other subjects and other subjects were mostly other people. So people she knew, people she had heard of, people she saw in the street, people she had read about, they all had to be collected and gone through like a basket of sewing so that the most interesting bits about them could be picked out and fitted together to make conversation.” 4 likes
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