Author Brian Moore was born Belfast, had immigrated first to Canada and then the United States, and published several potboiler pulp fiction novels under a pen name before finally staking the claim to serious novelist using his own name for which he had been waiting so long. The result was The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne and the subject was as far away from the world of his potboiler fiction as the title. The almost unbearably sad and gloomy life of the title character seems in no way connected to the character in those pseudonymous paperbacks with titles like Wreath for Redhead and A Bullet for My Lady.
Originally published in 1955 simply as Judith Hearne, the addition of just four words changes everything. With the addition of “The Lonely Passion of” added, one barely even needs to flip through the book or peruse the jacket copy to understand at some intuitive level what is going on inside covers. Those looking for irony can pass right by; Judith Hearne is both very passionate and very lonely. Those look for a story about a lonely Irish character who unhappiness is not inextricably tied to the consumption of alcohol should also continue along the way on what may yet prove not to be a vain treasure hunt.
Despite having those published those earlier pulp novels, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne was technically considered Brian Moore’s first book for which it was awarded the Author’s Club of Great Britain First Novel Award. In 1987, the novel was adapted into a film for which Maggie Smith won the British equivalent of the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Judith.