We are especially pleased to announce the publication of The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, selected by The Guardian as one of 1,000 novels you must read before you die. Take advantage of a limited 25% discount on this most recent NYRB Classic, and discover the elegant craft of Brian Moore’s debut novel that launched his distinguished literary career.
The Lonely Passion of Judith HearneBy Brian Moore
Afterword by Mary Gordon
Dreary minutes marked the days, but Miss Hearne put loneliness aside on Sunday morning. She was the definition of a city spinster, brought up in Belfast with no family save for an ailing aunt she spent her youth nursing, and barely any friends. She scraped by with an inherited annuity and the earnings from a few piano lessons, moving from boarding house to boarding house—always in what used to be the best parts of the city—and stitching herself further into the seams of a solitary life. But like a new key, Sunday offered threads of opportunity. It was a dependable day for communion (even if it was coerced), and a chance for her to make new impressions, to confess her secret vices and forgive her indiscretions, and above all, it was a new chance to believe that there was something more to passion than suffering, and that maybe, this time, love might finally find her.
The breakfast table at her new boarding house on Camden Street was where she met Mr. Madden. He was an American, or rather an Irishman who’d lived in America for quite some time. His reasons for return were not entirely unclear, although he was surely wealthy from working in the hotel business there. Perhaps he too was looking to open a new door, settle down, and start anew? There was something deeper to him—something darker, she knew the signs—but she would choose to put aside prejudice and wouldn’t pry, because time was ticking and unlike other men, he didn’t look away when Judith caught his eye.
A romance of any sort in a boarding house does not go unnoticed, and soon hushed whispers of disapproval are heard throughout the hallways, especially from the landlady, Mr. Madden’s sister. With her worldly passions threatened and her secret life possibly exposed, Judith turns to The Church that she could once rely on. What she finds instead is a cold confessional full of impassivity—one that fails to bring her any comfort, and which sends her faith further into crisis. She has no option but to repent. After all, penitence gives strength, and attrition leads to absolution. But tell that to a lonely soul, facing an eternity of dreary day after dreary day.
Made into an award winning movie starring Maggie Smith and Bob Hoskins, Brian Moore’s compassionate portrait of a woman trapped by disillusionment and destroyed by self and circumstance has forever enshrined Judith Hearne in the gallery of literature’s unforgettable women.
A “very fine writer, also seriously neglected…I just don’t understand why he hasn’t yet won a wider audience. Every good writer I know admires his work. I’ve always thought Judith Hearne is a masterpiece.” —Richard Yates
“Brian Moore [wrote] a superb first novel; The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne reads as freshly, and as heart-breakingly, today as it did when it first appeared in 1955.” —John Banville
“The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne is, to my notion, everything a novel should be.” —Harper Lee (New York Times, 1960)
View the reading group guide (pdf)