Brian Moore’s first novel, published both as Judith Hearne and as The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, established him as a contemporary novelist of the first order. He has appealed to many readers as a novelist who writes without embarrassment in the realistic tradition of the Victorians about distinctively modern topics: spiritual and erotic crises, the reality of the objective world, ethnic conflict, relationships between men and women, and the place of women in the societies of the old world and the new. Modern themes of alienation and estrangement are rooted firmly in Moore’s work by a sense of place and of time. His evocation of Montreal in The Luck of Ginger Coffey has been compared to James Joyce’s portrayal of Dublin on “Bloomsday.” The bleak urban environment of Belfast of the earlier works and the windswept Irish coast of The Mangan Inheritance strike responsive chords in readers conditioned to the blank landscapes of much modernist literature.
Just as Moore’s geographical terrain changes, however, so do his characters and his stylistic formats. From the almost naturalistic treatment of the unfortunate Judith Hearne to the ghostly dialogues of Fergus and the magical creation of The Great Victorian Collection, from the Jesuit missionaries in Black Robe to the terrorists in Lies of Silence, Moore’s unpredictable inventiveness and his sure hand in storytelling and character development kept him in the forward ranks of late twentieth century novelists.
Among the honors Moore received were a Guggenheim Fellowship, an award from the American National Institute of Arts and Letters, a Canada Council Fellowship, the Author’s Club of Great Britain First Novel Award, the Governor-General Award of Canada for fiction, and honorary literature degrees from Queens University, Belfast (1989) and National University of Ireland, Dublin (1991). He was three times short-listed for the Booker Prize, for The Doctor’s Wife, The Color of Blood, and Lies of Silence. Catholics won the W. H. Smith Award in 1973, and The Great Victorian Collection won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1975. Black Robe was given the Heinemann Award from the Royal Society of Literature in 1986.