When I have time I read book blogs published by other readers and occasionally find my next good read. This is what happened when I read a review of The Feast of Lupercal by Brian Moore on the HeavenAli book blog.
The novel sounded really intriguing and well written so I checked it out on Amazon but couldn’t locate a Kindle version. Instead I found The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by the same author, read a few pages of the free sample and was hooked.
Brian Moore (not to be confused with the English rugby player or the somewhat older football commentator) was a novelist and screen writer born in Northern Ireland in 1921. Moore emigrated to Canada and later the USA and became an acclaimed and award winning author of over twenty novels and many short stories.
Moore subsequently disowned his earlier novels and regarded Judith Hearne (re-published as The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne) as his first novel.
Published in 1955, the novel centres on Judith Hearne, a forty-something, single woman desperate to find love. Set in Belfast in the mid-fifties, Judith struggles to earn a living as a piano teacher eeking out the small inheritance she received from the aunt to whom she devoted many years of selfless care. Judith lives in what we’d now regard as a house-share with the property owner calling all the shots. Back then it was a lodging house and the landlady provides a meagre breakfast for her guests along with a room, access to shared bathroom facilities and the cleaning services of a young woman barely old enough to leave school.
As the story begins Judith has just moved into her new home and finds the other residents not quite up to her usual standards. Even so, she’s attracted to the landlady’s brother and pleased when he invites her out. Within a few pages, it’s clear that this is a disaster just waiting to happen. And it does!
For a novel in which there is very little plot, this book is a real page-turner. The writing is so sharp and precise, every word carries weight. The all seeing narrator tells the tale but the novel is interspersed with first person commentary from a whole range of characters. This is handled so smoothly that the reader is in and out of their minds and moving on to the next segment of the story without a hitch.
Judith’s life goes rapidly down hill as Moore reveals her secret alcoholism. This is so acutely observed that it’s almost painful to read. Without giving too much away, as the novel moves to it’s inevitable tragic ending the author’s options seem very limited. But he turns on a sixpence and brings the novel to a really good ending, opening out Judith’s future with an entirely unexpected solution.
This really is a brilliant novel. In 2019 it was included in the BBC list of 100 most inspiring novels and its place there is well deserved.
Many thanks to HeavenAli for introducing me to this fantastic author.
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Image credit: Belfast 1930s Robert Welch, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons