New to me author, Ann O’Loughlin comes to the blog today with her book, a story that spans 3 decades and two generations in
The Judge’s Wife
The premise of this story is wonderful: a young Irish woman is embroiled in an affair with an Indian doctor resulting in a child. Young wife’s controlling (and coldly efficient) aunt and husband (the judge) remove wife from the house to an asylum, and tell her paramour that death was the result of childbirth for mother and child. Years later, after the judge’s death, the daughter finds her mother’s possessions and starts to explore a history that was never open to her before: in all of its inhumanity and stricture.
Great story idea – and I couldn’t wait to dive in. But, while the narrative felt plausible and the demise of Grace within a marriage to an older, cold and highly stuffy man, her aunt’s constant corrections and dismissal of her lighter moments and the struggle that Grace appeared to have as she tried to function in the structure of the 1950’s Irish society are clearly outlined. With the introduction to Vikram, a doctor from Bangalore in Ireland to work, and the instant affinity she feels for someone who actually treats her as a person – one can see her fanciful and immature imagination of ‘something different’ starting to take place. But the character of Grace: rather timid in the face of her husband and aunt, headstrong and heedless when out of their sights just never developed into a complete person. Even when confined and constantly dreaming of and remembering her moments outside, she didn’t really become a real person: more a series of impressions and a thing to feel badly for when things went pear shaped.
Emma’s personality, however, was one of searching and seeking: as a daughter who never knew her mother, and was raised by a cold, unfeeling and highly structured father and an aunt who seemed to be lying in wait for any transgression that can be punished out of her, is experiencing some of her own firsts. The first time back in Ireland after nearly twenty years: her life open after the dissolution of her engagement in Australia, a house full of memories – most bad, that she is responsible for disposing of, clearing or using to move on. Lastly – there are boxes: boxes and boxes of items labelled Grace, of her mother’s clothing, items, etc. She’s on her own quest to discover her mother: wearing her clothes, using perfume left behind, trying to build an image of a woman when she only has items to add to the picture, and her own anger and hatred for her father won’t let her see a whole story.
Vikram is, surprisingly enough, possibly the victim in this story. Left heartbroken, the subject of scandal, he lost both a love and a child, and has returned to life in India with his sister – dreaming of what may have been, what is right in front of him, and quiet moments on the coffee plantation at its heyday. The descriptions, sights and smells of India come through strongly with his point of view: beautifully evocative if carrying a bit of ‘damper’ on them due to his unrelenting heartbreak.
But these three characters are the focal point, with plenty of secondary characters that are little more than placeholders: stereotypically good or bad, no development or purpose but for their ability to shape the overriding larger story. Questions of background and such a rise to prominence in society are present: Grace was not from the ‘right side’ of the tracks, nor Violet, but they are both portrayed with a sophistication and allure that would have been ‘second nature’ to the Judge in his later-in-life search for a wife. Did he want biddable and easily controlled (as he thought he had with Grace) and one that would be so grateful for the security that he wouldn’t need to use even the most basic consideration to keep her? Was Grace so starved for friendship and love that Vikram was the only option, or was she so heedless as to just take whatever crumbs were offered? And did not Vikram see the trouble coming – this was 1950’s Ireland – he was a foreigner and very different, she was a married to a man of connections and inherent respect.
While the investigations of Emma prove intriguing, the problems remained to nag at me and while “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy” as said by Hamlet, I just didn’t find the resolution of the more current thread with Emma to come with any sense of possibility. Sure, you knew going in that Grace’s story wouldn’t be a happy one, and it seems as if Vikram is stalled in his love for her, but the actual sense of a story brought to a logical conclusion that is plausible and possible, especially after so much hurt, isn’t there. I wanted to love this story and hoped for a true sense of closure and for Emma to feel as if she knew her mother, filling in the blank spaces in her memory and heart – I just didn’t find all of that here.
Title: The Judge's Wife
Author: Ann O'Loughlin
Genre: Family Saga, Historic Woman's Fiction, Setting: Ireland
Published by: Sky Horse Publishing
Published on: 6 February, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Audio Length: 8 Hours: 10 minutes
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦ Book Depository ♦ Google ♦Audible
With her whole life ahead of her, beautiful young Grace's world changes forever when she's married off to a much older judge. Soon, feeling lonely and neglected, Grace meets and falls in love with an Indian doctor, Vikram--he's charming, thoughtful, and kind, everything her husband is not. But this is 1950s Ireland, and when she falls pregnant, the potential scandal must be dealt with. As soon as she has given birth, Grace is sent to an asylum by the judge, while Vikram, told that Grace died in childbirth, returns to India heartbroken.
Thirty years later, after the judge's death, his estranged daughter Emma returns home to pack up his estate, where she finds Grace's diaries and begins to piece together the life of the mother she never knew. Meanwhile, Vikram is planning a long-awaited return to Ireland with his much-loved niece Rosa--who has grown up hearing all about her uncle's long-lost love--to stand, at last, at the grave of the woman he adores. When the judge's will is finally read, revealing he has sent letters to Vikram and Emma, the deception spanning both decades and continents finally begins to unravel, exposing long-buried family secrets along the way and raising the question of if true love can last a lifetime.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: