Fiction: The Judge's Wife by Ann O'Loughlin
Black & White Publishing €9.99
This is Irish journalist Ann O'Loughlin's second novel, following her bestseller, The Ballroom Cafe. The opening scene evokes a tragic period in Irish history when women could be consigned to an asylum for having a child out of wedlock.
Set in Ireland in the 1950s, we meet young and beautiful Grace Moran as she carefully packs her silk blouse and pleated linen dress specially designed by Sybil Connolly. Her husband, Judge Moran, is taking her for a 'rest' in the country. As he leaves her behind in Knockavanagh, sharing a ward with some rather spirited and unfortunate girls, the mystery begins to unravel. An arranged marriage, a passionate love affair, a conniving witch of an aunt, result in Grace's confinement, where her days are spent sewing linen handkerchiefs, pining for her lost love.
Chapters alternate with Dublin in 1984, when Emma, the judge's estranged daughter, has returned from Australia after his funeral. Roaming the empty house on Parnell Square, she is haunted by the chests of finely-crafted clothes and jewellery worn by her dead mother.
The narrative shifts back and forth to Bombay in 1984, where Dr Vikram Fernandes, who interned in St Vincent's Hospital in the 1950s, prepares to return to Dublin with his niece. His mission? To stand at the grave of the woman he loved.
When Emma finds Grace's diaries and dons her clothes, she becomes immersed in a tangled web of lies, spanning three decades, and one love. This is a richly woven tale of passion, conspiracy, hypocrisy and a chilling secret beyond the grave.
In a compelling read, Ann O'Loughlin renders her characters with precision, while also revealing the dark side of Dublin society, even in the 1980s.
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