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The Doctor's Wife

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Awaiting her husband's arrival on holiday in France, Sheila Redden,quiet, middle-aged doctor's wife, suddenly finds herself caught up in a passionate affair with a young American, ten years her junior, this extraordinary powerful portrayal of a woman transformed by love was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

240 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1976

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About the author

Brian Moore

264 books139 followers
Brian Moore (1921–1999) was born into a large, devoutly Catholic family in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His father was a surgeon and lecturer, and his mother had been a nurse. Moore left Ireland during World War II and in 1948 moved to Canada, where he worked for the Montreal Gazette, married his first wife, and began to write potboilers under various pen names, as he would continue to do throughout the 1950s.

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1955, now available as an NYRB Classic), said to have been rejected by a dozen publishers, was the first book Moore published under his own name, and it was followed by nineteen subsequent novels written in a broad range of modes and styles, from the realistic to the historical to the quasi-fantastical, including The Luck of Ginger Coffey, An Answer from Limbo, The Emperor of Ice Cream, I Am Mary Dunne, Catholics, Black Robe, and The Statement. Three novels—Lies of Silence, The Colour of Blood, and The Magician’s Wife—were short-listed for the Booker Prize, and The Great Victorian Collection won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

After adapting The Luck of Ginger Coffey for film in 1964, Moore moved to California to work on the script for Alfred Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain. He remained in Malibu for the rest of his life, remarrying there and teaching at UCLA for some fifteen years. Shortly before his death, Moore wrote, “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.”

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 68 reviews
Profile Image for Dem.
1,176 reviews1,067 followers
January 14, 2020
Having loved The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore I really wanted to try another Brian Moore novel and the Doctor’s wife really caught my attention, written in 1976 and a Booker prize short list nominee, its extremely well written and while its not my typical read I really found it quite intriguing. There are no major reveals or twists and turns and yet the story of a married woman who has an affair with a younger man is beautifully written and I just couldn't put this one down.

Sheila Redden, a quiet, middle aged doctor’s wife from Northern Ireland awaits the arrival of her husband to join her for their two week holiday in France. He has been delayed by a couple of days and she finds herself unexpectedly caught up in passionate affair with an American 10 years her junior.

There are flashes of Northern Ireland and the troubles throughout the story and we are transported to a time when women were pretty much seen and not heard, when a woman’s place was in the home and when the little lady did as she was told and yet we see many signs of the changes and while I felt pangs of sympathy for Mrs Reddan, there was times I felt annoyance and anger at her too and for me this had all to do with her son.

There are what were deemed “explicit sex scenes” in the 1970s which I would think by today’s standards are quite mild and are relevant to the story. This is quite a thought provoking novel and I would love to have read it for a book club as I think there is quite a lot to discuss here. The characters are so well portrayed and for a short novel it really packs a punch.
Profile Image for Guille.
728 reviews1,349 followers
March 30, 2020
Todo el protagonismo de la novela se lo lleva Sheila, el resto de personajes son solo apoyos esquemáticos, una mujer en plena crisis de los cuarenta (o treinta y tantos que tanto da), una universitaria que solo se ha dedicado a la casa, a su marido y a su hijo y que en el viaje organizado precisamente para recuperar aquello que una vez tuvo la pareja se enfrenta a la vida libre y aventurera de su amiga de estudios y a la seducción de un joven e impetuoso americano, muy lejos de su aburrido, ocupado y celoso marido.

Se supone que debería ser un relato psicológico, de lucha interior, de remordimiento, de culpa, pero también de esperanza, de renacimiento. No he encontrado nada de eso, todo poco robusto, muy en el aire.

Una novela meramente entretenida, moralista, con poca chicha y casi na de limoná.
Profile Image for Hugh.
1,251 reviews49 followers
December 8, 2018
Another one read for the Mookse Madness list. I don't think I was the ideal reader for this claustrophobic story of a woman escaping from a stifling and unfulfilling marriage by falling for a young American while on holiday in France. Not that I want to be too critical, the subject matter just didn't really engage me.
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,716 reviews1,150 followers
March 10, 2019
I read this book for the 2019 Mookse Madness Tournament.

Famously The Prime Minister’s wife blackballed The Doctor’s Wife for the Booker due to the sex scenes.

Trying to find out more about Moore the author, and a little underwhelmed with this book, I came across an obituary in The Independent in 1999. I found this passage interesting:


He had a virtual fetish about writing in the voice, and the skin, of a woman. He defended it lightly, saying, "If I write as a woman, I can do all the autobiographical stuff without getting picked up on it"; but the regularity with which he performed this trans-gender ventriloquism suggests a deeply serious engagement with female emotional responses. The charting of a doomed modern love affair, in The Doctor's Wife, filled with off-puttingly clinical sexual encounters, marked perhaps the low- point of these explorations.


And I found this instructive – one thing that clearly struck me about the book was a man writing seemingly empathetically and sympathetically from a woman’s viewpoint. What I have understood from the obituary and from my Goodreads friends reviews of Moore’s other books – is that this is a skill of Moore – however perhaps not at its strongest here and anyway it was not clear to me why I would not prefer to read a female author doing the same thing with more authenticity.

The plot of the novel is relatively simple, if not almost clichéd: a married woman frustrated with her marriage, has an affair with a younger man.

In this case – the woman is Sarah Redden, in her late 30s. Once a promising student she married young (against it seems the better judgement of her friends who saw her as having a potential career) to a Doctor – Kevin, dedicated more to his patients than his marriage. They have one son – Danny – an increasingly independent teenager, which only seems to add to Sarah’s sense of drift, as does her loss of any childhood faith she had and the difficulties of her home country of Northern Ireland.

Sarah plans for the two of them to revisit their honeymoon hotel in Villefranche on the French Riviera, stopping off first to visit her college friend Peg in Paris (where Sarah had a gap year as a student). The contrast between Peg’s free lifestyle and her own predictability, combined with Kevin’s constant procrastination about when he can fly to the Riviera, snaps something in Sarah who embarks on a overt flirtation with Tom – an American who has just graduated from Dublin – and the flatmate of Peg’s Yugoslavian lover. Tom follows her to Villefranche and the flirtation becomes a full blown affair, the two moving back to Paris where Kevin finds out what is going on, involving her family in his attempts to persuade her back.

The book is enjoyable enough – and Moore does seem to write with some sensitivity and insight about Sarah as commented above, as well as about her brother, roped in to an attempt to change her mind and who rather clumsily tries to conflate her behaviour with a susceptibility to mental illness which runs in their family.

However the same cannot be said of the writing about Tom. He remains an unconvincing and sketchy character (simply having characters remark that he is not a typical American is not really an excuse for not even bothering to write him as an America) – and the book is hindered further by an inadvisable foray into the sordid voyeuristic mind of the hotel guest Mr. Balcer.

The book has the odd literary flourish, for example: brief mid paragraph first person asides; the device of naming Sarah as Mrs Redden throughout as a way of emphasising the constraints her marriage has placed on her, as well as her husband’s assumption of ownership of her; brief references to the Northern Ireland Troubles mirroring the Troubles of Sarah’s marriage and to a breakdown of faith in religion (among the Catholics) and country (among the Protestants) mirroring Sarah’s lack of faith in the sacrifices of marriage.

However none of this lifts the book in my view near what I would consider Booker shortlist territory – and the book contains some clumsy flourishes such as a rather over-the-top behaviour by Kevin when he confronts Sarah and which turns him into a cartoon villain; and some close to unforgivable ones: Kevin saying to Sarah that she is not the heroine of a book.

This was my first book by Brian Moore – previously a name I associated with two iconic lines. One of the great song lyrics “Brian Moore’s head looks uncannily like London Planetarium” and one of the great commentaries : “It’s up for grabs now”. The latter words being etched in my memory, which I fear will not be the case for any aspect of this book – as perhaps shown by my only quotes being from elsewhere.

I don’t know if Brian Moore felt the Booker was “up for grabs now” when he was shortlisted, but I think this should not have needed a Prime Ministerial Consort’s veto for too much explicit sex, but rather a veto for insufficient literary merit.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,636 reviews26 followers
October 1, 2019
Sheila Redden, 37 years old, goes to Paris on her way to a vacation in Nice. Her husband, Kevin, is a surgeon, and is planning to join her in Nice. It is the early 1970's and they live in Belfast with their 16 year old son. Kevin is reluctant to ever holiday outside of Ireland, but agrees to Nice, where they honeymooned 16 years before. In Paris, Sheila visits an old friend, and while there meets a man. We are unsure what she'll do and how far she will go with this flirtation. The contrast between her nightmares of Belfast, and sunny Nice are stark. Will she go back to that life? We are carried through events in the book not knowing until the final pages what her choice will be. This may seem an unexpected story from a male writer, but Moore is also the author of The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne. He seems to know, and appreciate women -their inner lives, doubts, hopes and fears. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and years later remains relevant despite changes in the possibilities for women's lives.
Profile Image for Emily.
643 reviews36 followers
October 3, 2007
I read this after remembering having read "The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne." I decided I wanted to read more Moore, and this one looked intriguing. And how! There was explicit sex, which was amusing, as ever, but I also looked at the novel through a couple of critical lenses. This book is a coming of age story, can be looked at through the lens of feminism, and can be looked at from a post-colonial perspective, too. Tensions between the main characters reflect tensions between Ireland and England, Britain and France, and Europe and America. The end resolves just as it should, though maybe not as some romantics would hope. I always love a character who can find real independence.
Profile Image for Claire.
633 reviews277 followers
October 18, 2021
Interesting perspectives and thought provoking choices made by the author, in this account of a woman who goes on an anniversary holiday to Paris and the South of France, waiting for her husband to join her.

The distance and solitude heightens her feelings towards everything. She is at the beginning of developing a kind of resistance, even if that shows itself through what appears to be recklessness. She embraces it.

It reads like a kind of thriller, because she acts so out of convention, but the longer she does so, the more likely it seems like there is the possibility she might indeed be upending her life.

The reader believes she is hovering between two choices, the author having chosen in the early parts of the narrative to allow us access to her thoughts. The detail with which her encounters are shared and the response of her family to them, increase this duality.

I really enjoyed this, though I read with a certain level of distrust, not having liked at all what he did to his female character in The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne. However, here, I had a sense almost of the author writing this in collaboration.

Yes, many people say he has an uncanny ability to get into the mind of a woman; I think that is so because he mined them for information and was interested in their minds.

More to come, still thinking on this one...
Profile Image for Allan.
478 reviews67 followers
July 31, 2014
This is the third of Moore's novels that I've read, having decided to catch up on the back catalogue of critically acclaimed NI authors who published their work 'before my time'.

The novel, which was shortlisted for the Booker on its release in 1976, tells the story of Shiela Redden, a 37 year old who is married to a surgeon from the Royal Hospital and lives a seemingly comfortable life in a large house on the Somerton Road in Belfast, but has many regrets as to the way her life has turned out. She and her husband plan to recreate their honeymoon on holiday in the south of France, the latter somewhat reluctantly, and when Shiela has to travel alone, due to her husband's work commitments, things take an unexpected turn when she meets an American 11 years her junior, through a friend.

Having initially read the synopsis, I wasn't sure that I'd like this novel, but I have to say that it had me engaged from the start. I found myself sympathetic to Shiela, who on top of everything else, has been touched by events in NI, which are alluded to in the text. Having visited and stayed in establishments in France similar to those written about in the novel, I felt that Moore recreated these vividly in the book. The relationship itself perhaps started a little woodenly, but this is a small criticism. I was surprised at the graphic detail with which the affair was often described, but I felt that Shiela's actions, however illogical, were conveyed believably by the author.

If you like happy endings, this book isn't for you, but I'd definitely recommend the novel as one worth reading, and I look forward to enjoying much more of Moore's back catalogue in the months to come.
Profile Image for Dennis.
796 reviews31 followers
July 11, 2016
This was an interesting book to read, 40 years after it was written, because it reminded me that that was an epoch of feminist novels, rightfully questioning the role into which women had been cast, as dutiful wife and mother, then passing 30, looking back on all they'd given up and wondering what they'd gotten in return. ("Is this it? Is this all there is to my life?") Erica Jong, Marilyn French, Alix Kates Schulman, Lisa Alther, to name a few, which launched a huge debate. The debate hasn´t been settled yet but it made me long to re-read some of those books and see how they strike me now, if I´ll find them strident, dated or just as vital today. What I liked about this book is that although the other books were written by women and left men as cardboard characters, this was written by a man, gave voices to the two primary male characters and let them hang themselves and be assholes in their own words. Or better said, out of tune with the changing realities in sexual politics.
For anyone interested in which of these women author's books I'm referring to, these are the links:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4...
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3...
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9...
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...

Profile Image for George.
2,061 reviews
February 9, 2021
An interesting, engaging, eventful novel about Shiela, a married 37 year old Irish woman. She is married and has a son, Danny, aged 15. Shiela is in Nice, France, on holiday, awaiting her husband, Dr. Kevin Redden. They had planned to holiday in Nice for two weeks, however Dr. Redden finds it difficult to take time off from his surgery in Ireland. There had been a bombing and two of the dead had been patients of Dr. Redden. Accordingly Dr Redden delays coming to France for a couple of days. Whilst alone in Nice, Shiela meets Tom, a 26 year old American. Shiela and Tom fall in love with one another.

The characters are well developed and there is good plot momentum. A worthwhile read. Brian Moore fans should find this novel a very satisfying reading experience.

This book was shortlisted for the 1976 Booker Prize.
Profile Image for Liina Haabu.
305 reviews263 followers
April 29, 2020
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore was one of the best novels I read last year. I actually had to google whether the author of Doctor's Wife really is the same Brian Moore because the difference in quality between those two books is just staggering. Doctor's Wife though, despite having a good premise was a disappointment.

The plot is such a classic one. A woman, tired of a marriage gone stale, goes to a French Riviera holiday, finds a lover 10 years her junior and leaves her husband. When her brother goes looking for her to bring her back home, she has vanished into thin air.

I really liked the Riviera part, because well, who doesn't like Riviera holiday descriptions in novels? But pretty soon I was facepalming all the time because there were just so many stiff (no pun intended!) sex scenes one after another. When I read on it became less and less of a page-turner. The story dragged, the characters were so one dimensional and the plot just kept going in circles. It was clearly a plot not character-driven novel and the plot was simply not moving anywhere. I was also super annoyed by the recurrent discussion how a woman who is leaving her husband must surely be going through menopause or simply manic phase. The failure to have empathy for women, understand them and give them a believable voice was grave in that novel. This was especially striking having just red William Trevor previously, who is a male author as well yet has such memorable female characters, always portrayed with deep understanding.

Even though Doctor's Wife completely failed to impress me near the level of the Hearne book, there still were some clever and pinpoint observations about married life. Also, I quite liked the outcome.
Despite making the female character seem quite naive, she eventually made a selfish decision and didn't let any man push and pull her in directions she didn't want to deep in her heart.
Profile Image for Val.
2,425 reviews77 followers
November 27, 2018
Kevin and Sheila Redden plan to return to the hotel in the south of France where they stayed on their honeymoon for their sixteenth wedding anniversary. Sheila goes ahead to spend a little time in Paris, where she studied and where Peg, a close friend, is living. Kevin is a busy surgeon in a Belfast hospital and his arrival in France is delayed by work more than once; there are valid reasons, but it seems he never really wanted to go on holiday at all.
Peg has had several gentlemen friends over the years, her latest is a good-looking Latvian a few years younger than her, but Sheila married young and has been faithful to Kevin up to now. When she meets Tom Lowry, who is even younger than Peg's lover, the both instantly fall for each other and are soon having a passionate affair on what should have been Sheila's second honeymoon. Moore writes about sex quite well, giving enough detail to make the affair believable and not so much that it becomes gratuitous.
Sheila tells Kevin that she is not coming back and that she has met another man. Kevin's actions afterwards eventually lose him any sympathy the reader might have had for him, although I did feel sorry for their son, fifteen-year-old Danny, left behind in troubled Belfast, and Sheila's brother Owen, caught up in the affair.
What Sheila does afterwards is not the standard chick-lit ending, but the point of the book is that she has choices which Judith Hearne did not have twenty years earlier.
Profile Image for peg.
283 reviews6 followers
March 10, 2019
I read this book as part of the Mookse Madness tournament. It is pitted against the more well known Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne. Though I thought both books were somewhat soap-opera-ish this seemed the better of the two with somewhat more believable characters and vibrant imagery.
Profile Image for Mary.
643 reviews37 followers
September 8, 2013
Sheila Redden is a quiet, middle-aged doctor's wife. She is also on her way from war-torn Belfast to the south of France where her husband Kevin will join her in a few days, so that they can relive their honeymoon of fifteen years ago together. But Sheila had not reckoned on meeting Tom Lowry and finding her life totally transformed.

Ten years her junior, Tom Lowry is an American initially introduced to Sheila by an acquaintance of hers. What follows for both Sheila and Tom, is a brief but incredibly passionate affair that leaves Sheila completely devastated - never expecting that the love that she feels for Tom could become so strong in such a short period of time.

I have to say that I wasn't expecting The Doctor's Wife by Brian Moore to be as good as it turned out to be. Not that I was expecting the book to be awful or anything - I actually learned later that it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1976. However, since this was the first book by Brian Moore that I've ever read, I'll admit that my expectations about The Doctor's Wife started off slightly lower than they would have been had this been the second or third book by Brian Moore that I'd read.

Anyway, I certainly give The Doctor's Wife by Brian Moore an A+! This book was hidden away on my downstairs bookshelf for some time, until I discovered it while moving some books upstairs to look through them. I almost wish that I had read this book several years before now - oh well, better late than never, I suppose. :)
Profile Image for Heike Schütz .
21 reviews1 follower
February 2, 2010
What a wonderful story! I was amazed that the author is a man. The character of Sheila Redden is so believable and your sympathy is with her even though she is about to leave her son. Ordinarily that would lose me as far as any compassion is concerned.
Profile Image for JacquiWine.
496 reviews82 followers
November 23, 2021
(3.5 Stars)

Set against the backdrop of Northern Ireland in the mid-1970s, this compelling narrative explores the tensions between personal freedoms and the restrictions imposed by marriage, particularly in a traditional society.

The novel’s focus is Sheila Redden, a thirty-seven-year-old woman who lives in Belfast with her surgeon husband, Kevin, and their fifteen-year-old son, Danny. Attractive and intelligent by nature, Sheila married young, sacrificing any personal aspirations for a life of marriage, motherhood and domesticity. Now, sixteen years after their wedding, Sheila has persuaded Kevin to return to Villefranche on the French Riviera for a second honeymoon, a chance perhaps to rekindle their relationship after years of stagnation.

When the pressures of the surgery cause a delay, Sheila sets off for France alone, hoping that Kevin will follow two or three days later, despite his apparent reluctance to travel. En route to the South of France, Sheila stops in Paris to stay the night with Peg, a friend from her student days, and it is here in the city that the stability of her marriage is derailed. When Sheila meets Tom Lowry – a carefree American graduate ten years her junior – the attraction between the two of them is instant and undeniable. To Sheila, Tom represents freedom, opportunity and the possibility of fulfilment – elements that have been sorely lacking in her life for the past several years.

She turned to him, seeing him toss his long dark hair, his eyes shining, his walk eager, as though he and she were hurrying off to some exciting rendezvous. And at once she was back in Paris in her student days, as though none of the intervening years had happened, those years of cooking meals, and buying Danny’s school clothes, being nice to Kevin’s mother, and having other doctors and their wives in for dinner parties, all that laundry list of events that had been her life since she married Kevin. (p. 27)

To read the rest of my review, please visit:

https://jacquiwine.wordpress.com/2021...
Profile Image for Donna McCaul Thibodeau.
784 reviews18 followers
January 11, 2023
Sheila Redden is waiting for her doctor husband to join her in France for a holiday. She meets a young American who is ten years her junior and embarks on a passionate affair. He encourages her to leave her husband and son and return to America with him. But Sheila is conflicted. What should she do?
Even though this book was written almost fifty years ago, it doesn't feel dated. It doesn't seem like a lot is happening and yet, that is the beauty of it. It is beautifully written. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Megan.
216 reviews2 followers
April 18, 2020
Hard to rate really. A small book about a small affair between an older married woman and a young American tourist which takes place in Paris, probably in the early 1980s. Alternately racy and dull, it never quite satisfies but does make you think about the difficult nature of human relationships. Not a write-off, but nothing breathtaking either. Ho Hum.
Profile Image for Janet M.
68 reviews1 follower
July 5, 2018
4- star read knocked down to 3-stars for disappointing abrupt ending. But I'll get over it and when I do, will write you a decent review.
I will say Brian Moore was able to get into a woman's head like very few male authors.
Profile Image for Cath.
84 reviews
January 30, 2013
I enjoyed this book, but am not entirely sure why it was shortlisted for an award. Although I read it with a 2013 perspective, neglecting the fact that it was published in 1976 for a fair few chapters, which might be part of the problem...

The tension and terror of living in the Belfast of the '70s is particularly apparent throughout; along with a backdrop of religious uncertainty, which helps the reader to understand a little of how Sheila must be feeling.

There is a conflict of narrative voice at first - Moore seems to want to write in the first person, but writes mostly in the third person - I found some early switches between the two so off-putting I almost abandoned the book. However it does settle down and became less of an issue for me as I progressed.

I found the switching between 'Sheila' and 'Mrs Redden' annoying, as there didn't seem to be any real significance to doing so.

I found the story quite engaging, almost in a cat and mouse, semi-detective story kind of way. It disturbed me to see how much power a husband exerted over his wife in such recent times, with the scene of marital rape a particularly horrific example of this.

In the end I was glad she had the balls to go it alone, although the apparent ease with which she could write off her only son was rather unbelievable, given that he had been her life's work to date.

In all, an interesting read, but I won't be rushing back to Moore any time soon - he's not really my cup of tea.
Profile Image for A. Mary.
Author 5 books25 followers
April 7, 2013
Sheila Deane is the doctor's wife, living in Belfast, mother of a teenaged son, and she has gone ahead to France, where she and her husband will meet for their holiday. She has a degree, she loves books and music and conversation and travel. Her husband has no interest in those things. Sheila meets another man, ten years younger, and has a graphically described affair. At first, her husband resists the holiday, but then Sheila encourages him not to come at all. Moore writes a very sound story of a collapsing marriage and the anger and fear that swirl around, the siblings and friends and the child all pulling in various ways. Sheila is caught between Kevin, whom she is certain she is leaving, and Tom, with whom she has fallen in love, but the really interesting things in this novel are the ways in which Sheila awakens and begins in tiny moments to take ownership of herself. This isn't a happy story. It's full of tired people looking for something they can't find after all.
Profile Image for Tamsin Burford.
29 reviews
April 29, 2013
Whilst keeping you at arms length from the main character by always referring to her as Mrs...., the author makes a decision for the reader. Distance is expected. I am not sure why. So that we do or do not approve?

I enjoyed this book and thought it would make an excellent film. The scenery and the sex, Ireland in the time of the Troubles, the South of France, Paris - all add up to make an interesting backdrop to a story which is most importantly a delayed coming of age novel. Mrs.... finally makes decisions for herself during the novel.

Tensely written. Even trite scenes like the husband finding his wife with her lover were tense and though some of the actions obvious, one was gripped.

Old fashioned in style. The date the novel was published was 1976 but it could have been in the fifties in many ways.
Profile Image for Realini.
3,251 reviews69 followers
July 30, 2019
The Doctor’s Wife by Brian Moore
9.4 out of 10


Once a reader is acquainted with Brian Moore, having read a book by this wondrous author, whenever the chance occurs to immerse in another work, it would be taken, especially after being elated by The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, as had happened with the undersigned - http://realini.blogspot.com/2019/01/t...

The Doctor’s Wife has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and it is an enchanting romantic novel, with a heroine that has some aspects in common with Judith Hearne, for Sheila Redden, a married woman of 37, with a fifteen year old son, has not been happy until she meets the man who would show her into a new world of extreme sensations…A State of Grace.
She had planned a holiday to the south of France, near Nice, for quite some time, very anxious to travel after so many years to the same hotel – Welcome- where she had spent the honeymoon with her husband, Kevin Redden, who is a doctor with a very busy professional life, employed in Belfast by the British Army and often called to attend to the many victims of the Troubles, seeing that the events take place at the time when IRA and others involved in the Northern Ireland conflict bombed and killed innocents on a regular basis.

In fact, the opening has the brother of the protagonist travelling to Paris to find more about the absent sister, looking for clues with her friend, Peg, calling the man who had sent a letter to Peg’s apartment, but without finding anything and only then we launch on a journey of discovery of the main character, The Doctor’s Wife, her lover, the incredible adventure of finding a new life at the age of 37, experiencing intense joy, multiple orgasms and then seeing if all this would last, at what price and under what circumstances.
It is a thought provoking book with the potential to change the life of a reader who wonders if life is only what has happened so far, or there is a potential for something overwhelming, a transformation that could occur – there is a fabulous quote in the book which seems to be something like: ‘no future is denied to anyone’, seemingly stating that we could all choose one day to get off and travel to Bali.

Mrs. Redden refers a few times to the man who went out to get some cigarettes, from the shop at the corner, only to disappear and never be heard from ever again, a temptation that she would experience as she spends time on the Cote d’Azur with the messenger from the Paradise of Love.

Sheila Redden stops in Paris on her way to the sunny coast and meets with her friend, Peg, who has an affair with a Yugoslav man – at that time, there is used to be a country with that name, instead of the present Slovenia, Croatia and quite a few other independent states – and this boyfriend, Ivo, shares an apartment with a young American, Tom Lowry.
Since Peg and Ivo have a dispute, the American and the Doctor’s Wife spend some time together, in order to allow the two lovers to make peace and get over their differences, only to discover that they like each other and therefore decide to have breakfast the following day, before the heroine would take a flight to the South of France.

The Doctor, who had not liked the idea of a holiday out of the country from the start, preferring to stay near Belfast, has had some unexpected calls on him at home and thus is prevented from joining his spouse, at least for the next few days, causing tension to increase and the reader to find that this marriage was not made in heaven and the very tall Irish woman seems to have looked desperately for a man who is tall enough and then just married.
Tom is quickly infatuated with married woman, who is about eleven years his senior and insists on having lunch together, on the day of her flight to Nice and when that does not happen, he travels with her to the airport and furthermore, decides to join her on the coast, where they become passionate lovers, a sexual, romantic breakthrough that appears somewhat strange, given the age of the heroine, but when we consider her Catholicism and the cultural background, we arrive at the conclusion that it is in fact shocking that she liberates herself even this late in life, stunning all those concerned, family and friends.

The narrative becomes salacious, but in a good way, for the reader has the chance to share in the supreme joy, the extraordinary discovery of a new world of enchanted senses, orgasms that make the world around go quiet, with a lover that is much younger, but experimented, doing to his partner things that the husband has never tried, a woman that plays with the penis of her liberator, kissing and playing with it, in an orgy of enchantment.
Throughout, there is the worry that the husband would arrive and this fabulous incursion into the world of Fantastic, Divine Love and Pleasure would end, for what are the chances for a married woman, mother of a teenager, no longer a devoted Catholic, but with that background, to continue for long with a man who is more than a decade her junior, an American who has to travel in a few weeks to Vermont, to be acting manager in a lodge.

However, it seems that the Doctor’s Wife may abandon herself to her lover and enter this new life, justified among other things by the knowledge that her husband has never been too interested in her and the son appears to notice her only when he needs his meals, but most important, she has just discovered happiness, the possibility for a new life, she has never enjoyed life in Belfast, where it rains continuously and this could be her chance…possibly the last one.
Besides, the conclusion of this phenomenal, outstanding Magnus opus might be summarized by the Alfred lord Tennyson quote

‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.’
31 reviews
March 27, 2013
This was okay but didn't seem to have the depth of character of some of his other books. I never quite found the protagonist very believable and it bugged me the way she was usually referred to as Mrs .... I got the point really early on that being a wife and mother was her identity - crikey, the title of the book told me that. She never evolved though - I expected part way through for her to become FIRST NAME - I don't even remember what her first name was. If in fact this did happen and I missed it - apologies but hey, I missed it and I was looking for it!
I love his books usually.
I will confess though that I read it on Kindle and must as I love the convenience of e-books they don't seem like proper books to me (still) - maybe that's why I didn't really connect with this one?
Profile Image for John.
536 reviews34 followers
December 3, 2012
I read this not having read a Brian Moore book for a while, and I found it immediately engaging. He sketches the characters sympathetically, skillfully uses his knowledge of middle class life in Belfast at the time of The Troubles, and then just as skillfully transfers the main characters to France where the romance of a different city, language and culture work their magic on the doctor's wife. Her personality and mental twists and turns as she starts the affair with a young man are well depicted, and it becomes a compelling read as Moore builds up to the climax in which the doctor's wife makes her big decision. Did she make the right one? I think most readers would say yes.
Profile Image for BrianC75.
376 reviews6 followers
June 17, 2016
Moore writes really well. He has the knack of getting under the skin of his characters and being able to put the reader inside their heads. Understands and portrays female leads superbly. He is from Northern Ireland, as am I, and most of his work is set there in the period of 'The Troubles' which he pins down very well.
This novel essentially is the story of an affair between an older Irish woman and a younger American man. He describes the tangled feelings of the protagonists superbly and weaves a compelling and poignant story with an appropriate and excellent ending. A good reason for revisiting 'vintage' fiction!
Profile Image for Iris AE.
294 reviews
February 24, 2016
Well written, but it takes a while to realize that this story happens in a near past, maybe in the early 80's. The story is about yet another case of people who are unable to express the truth, are not able to convey what they think, rather don't speak instead of saying things and never name things, even when they could. The end is not really foreseeable - the characterization of Sheila is not clear enough to discover what she really wants, and this turns the end into sort of a disappointment, despite the fact that I don't like happy endings.
Profile Image for Kevin Darbyshire.
152 reviews2 followers
April 25, 2017
I loved this book by Brian Moore. It is the 5th book I have read by Moore and this is the best so far. The characters are totally believable and I really was able to identify with them. The story is predictable really and one would not normally feel a great deal of sympathy for the principle characters but as the story unfolds I was definitely on their side. A strange ending but it leaves with the reader with the chance to create their own conclusion. I would highly recommend this book.
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