Yesterday Brian Moore's Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne went on sale, along with Alexandros Papdiamantis's Murderess. We couldn't help note both books concern the plight of powerless women living in patriarchal societies—and that they were both written by men. Judge for yourself whether these male writers have done justice to their subjects.
In this excerpt from The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, Miss Hearne runs into a tenant from her boarding house as they leave Mass.
She watched him as he walked on, saw his face smile, saw it turn cold and serious. What could he be thinking of? He seemed to be trying to remember something, perhaps an engagement, perhaps an excuse to leave her. For eventually, they all made some excuse. But when they reached the end of the street, he turned and took off his broad-brimmed hat.
“I guess you’ve got a lot of things to do,” he said. “You going back to the house?”
“O, yes. But I go to see my friends, the O’Neills, every Sunday afternoon. He’s a professor at the university, you know. A very clever man. I used to know him when we were children. And now he’s married with a lovely family of his own.”
Why did I say that, she thought, why? But it was her old fault, the old boasts, the shields against pity, against being forced to say that nobody wanted to see you that particular day. The old mistake. Now he would go away.
“That so?” His face showed disappointment.
She tried to undo it: to let him know that life was not all gay friends.
“It’s so nice to have someone to visit occasionally when one lives alone.”
It was a forward thing to say, but she had to come out with it some time: besides, it was the truth, although nobody liked to admit being lonely. How many times before had she turned men away by her habit of boasting, of pretending that she had a good time all the time and needed no one. Looking at him, tall, no longer young, with his rough-red face and his built-up shoe, she knew that he would be easily turned away, that he had not stayed so long alone without something of herself in him. And maybe, although it was a thing you could hardly bear to think about, like death or your last judgment, maybe he would be the last one ever and he would walk away now and it would only be a question of waiting for it all to end and hoping for better things in the next world. But that was silly, it was never too late. And so she waited, pretending not to see him lift his hand to say good bye, waited for something, for some little chance to keep him.
And in this excerpt from The Murderess, we are introduced to the novel's title character.
Old Hadoula, sometimes known as Jannis Frankissa, lay beside the hearth, with her eyes closed and her head resting on the step of the fireplace, the cinder-step as it is known. She had not dozed off, she was giving up her sleep at the cradle of her sick granddaughter. As for the new mother, who had given birth to the sick child, she had been sound asleep for a little while now in her unhappy nest on the floor.
The little hanging lamp guttered under the canopy of the fireplace. It threw shadows instead of light on the few miserable sticks of furniture, which looked cleaner and grander at night than in the daytime. The three half-burnt logs and the big upright balk of timber in the hearth made a lot of ash, a few glowing cinders and a flame that crackled quietly and reminded the old woman through her drowsiness of her absent younger daughter Krinio. If Krinio had been in the house now she would have been whispering in a low chant, "If he's a friend good luck to him, and if he isn't, damn him."
Hadoula, or Frankissa, or Frankojannou, was a woman of scarcely sixty, well built and solid, with a masculine air and two little touches of moustache on her lips. In her private thoughts, when she summed up her entire life, she saw that she had never done anything except serve others. When she was a little girl, she had served her parents. When she was mated, she became a slave to her husband, and at the same time, because of her strength and his weakness, she was his nurse. When she had children she became a slave to her children, and when they had children of their own, she was slave to her grandchildren.