Brian Moore Read Along 2021


During 2021, Cathy at 746Books, the team at Brian Moore at 100 and Northern Irish author, playwright Jan Carson (whose latest book The Last Resort will be published on April 1st) join forces to celebrate the work of one of Northern Ireland’s enigmatic writers and wanderers, Brian Moore, in his centenary year.

Northern Irish Connections

I have a personal interest in Northern Ireland, having discovered in my twenties that my biological father (unknown to me at the time) was born there. I spent some years doing my own private research that resulted in discovering a whole line of family, so reading a variety of literature from this part of Ireland is a form of distant connection for me.

When I looked at what Cathy was proposing reading for the year (see the list below), I looked up Brian Moore was interested in what I learned and managed to source about 5 of the suggested 12 novels. Another of the reasons I decided to participate, was the intrigue and recognition evoked by a statement Moore wrote shortly before his death:

“There are those stateless wanderers who, finding the larger world into which they have stumbled vast, varied and exciting, become confused in their loyalties and lose their sense of home. I am one of those wanderers.”

Brian Moore, Irish Author (1921 – 1999)

Brian Moore 100 Northern Irish

The Young Author & Wanderer Brian Moore

Brian Moore was born into a large, middle-class Catholic family, the fourth of nine children, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His father was a surgeon and lecturer, and his mother had been a nurse.

In 1940 he became an Air Raid Warden, their role to enforce blackouts and report on bombing incidences, a role that would inspire the third in his ‘Belfast’ trilogies The Emperor of Ice-cream (1965). He also worked for the British Ministry of War Transport with postings to Algiers, Naples, Toulon and Marseille. After a period working for the United Nations in Poland he left Europe in 1948.

After following his lover Margaret Swanson to Canada, he would work for the Montreal Gazette, marry, become a Canadian citizen, begin to write stories for a weekend magazine and pulp novels for Harlequin under the pseudonyms Bernard Mara and Michael Bryan (1954-1957). Around this time, he wrote his first literary novel The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne a story of an alcoholic Catholic spinster, set in a boarding house on Camden Street in Belfast.

Looking back, he said, “I was very lonely, I had almost no friends, I’d given up my beliefs, was earning no money and I didn’t see much of a future. So I could identify with a dipsomaniac, isolated spinster.”

Cross Genre Rule Breaker

Brain Moore 100 Northern Ireland

Photo by Lina Kivaka on

He wrote short stories, pulp novels, literary novels, screen plays and explored a wide variety of genres including magical realism, historical fiction, thrillers and social realism. The context of his writing covered World War II,  the Northern Irish “Troubles”, Second Wave Feminism, Vatican II and other shifts within the Catholic Church and the Cold War.

His early rejection of the Catholic church filtered into much of his work, and his experiences during the war likely contributed to a pessimistic view of humanity. His isolation and ‘outsider’ perspective gave him unique and provocative insights, perhaps without fear or care of consequence.

He wrote 26 novels over the span of 50 years, living most of his life in Canada and the US, writing at a distance from his native land. He was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1975, the inaugural Sunday Express Book of the Year award in 1987 and shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times. His first four (mainstream) novels were banned in Ireland.

Brian Moore at 100

Though his work makes such an important contribution to the historical era and commentary on issues, and received both critical and public success, much of it is now put of print, this project attempts to revive interest by reaching out to scholarly critics, readers and the general public. The project is run by Sinéad Moynihan and Alison Garden.

The Read Along Titles for 2021

Here are the books that have been chosen for the ReadAlong, as I read those that I have (in bold) I’ll link my reviews back to this page. I’ve just started Lies of Silence and it’s already gripping.

January Lies of Silence (1999)
February The Feast of Lupercal (1957)
March Fergus (1970)
April The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1955)
May The Doctor’s Wife (1976)
June No Other Life (1993)
July Cold Heaven (1983)
August The Temptation of Eileen Hughes (1981)
September The Emperor of Ice-Cream (1965)
October The Dear Departed: Short Stories (2020)
November Catholics (1972)
December The Magician’s Wife (1997)

As a novelist, Moore was a shape-shifter who never seemed anchored to any specific nation or historical period; he only belonged to the characters he created on the pages you couldn’t stop turning. Scott Bradfield

Have you heard of Brian Moore or read any of his novels?

If you are interested, why not find one of these titles and join in the Read Along? You can also follow the project on twitter @brianmoore100

Northern Irish Author Canadian Brian Moore

18 thoughts on “Brian Moore Read Along 2021

  1. I’ve got The Lonely Passion on the TBR, (possibly after reading a review at Reading Matters?)
    I’m not sure if I can fit it into April but will do my best.


  2. I’d never heard of this author, and there’s very little of his in our library system – I’ve just checked. So I’ll try and source something of his, but I doubt if I can realistically join the read-along – in any case, I’m not on Twitter!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think they’re hoping that this focus on his work might bring some of his work back into print. Because he wasn’t based in Ireland, he seems to have slipped off the radar, a situation more common to woman writers, but for whom there is a growing interest in bringing their work back into the mainstream.


    • I’m enjoying it Cathy, it’s interesting the husband/wife dynamic, the one who wants to stay, the one who wants to go, irrespective of the twin dramas circulating them. It’s rare to come across a novel that’s so frank on the political and religious, a freedom of expression exercised from afar.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you Claire! I’ve only read one of Brian Moore’s books so far – “The Colour of Blood” – and enjoyed it immensely. I shall search for another of his, preferably from your list, at “Book in Bar”. ( I’ve recently started “The Island” by Victoria Hislop, so it won’t be for a couple of weeks.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such a wonderful event and celebration, Claire! Thanks so much for writing about it! I loved what Brian Moore said about being a stateless wanderer. I feel like that sometimes. I have to also tell you this story. One of my book club members used to run a library. She was moving abroad and so decided to close it down. So there was a book sale at her library. I couldn’t visit, but she shared pictures of the available books and I did research on them and got some of them. I always love library sales or secondhand book sales as we can find treasures there which are out of print. And guess what? I got The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne 😊 I was so happy when I read your post and saw this title in the readalong list 😊 I didn’t know anything about Brian Moore till I got that book and I definitely didn’t know that it was his centenary. Such amazing sequence of things happen coincidentally, don’t they? 😊 So, I’ll definitely be reading that book. Looking forward to participating in this Brian Moore readalong. Thanks so much for this post, Claire 😊 It made me so happy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yay! And just when I was saying to you and Deepika that I love seeing readers doing read alongs and having discussions, they bring a sense of community to what is otherwise a solitary activity. And this takes it to another level, planning in advance to read Brian Moore’s The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne in April 2021, we will be in good company Vishy!

      I listened to a live discussion on Saturday evening of the Read Soul Lit Read Along of Tammye Huf’s A More Perfect Union, which the author joined in, making it all the more special, especially since it was inspired by real family members. I like the way reading is evolving and becoming more of an event and social activity suited to readers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, so wonderful, Claire! I was thinking that I was going to read a series of unknown authors this year (all because of the books that I got at the library sale) and so when I saw your post on Brian Moore, I got so excited 😊 Thanks for sharing your experience of the live discussion on Tammye Huf’s book. It looks like it was a wonderful event! Yes, reading is becoming more of a social activity now, which is so wonderful!


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