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 the 1950s and when she becomes pregnant, the potential scandal must be harshly dealt with to avoid ruin.
A story spanning three decades, this is the moving tale of three women and how one great love changed their lives forever.
The Judge's Wife by Ann O'Loughlin was published in paperback on 1 July 2016 by Black & White Publishing and is the author's second novel. Her debut, The Ballroom Cafe was published in 2015.
The Judge's Wife is a story that really does pack a punch, it offers an insight into the terrible injustices carried out against innocent women in Ireland between the 1930s and 1950s. Although this is a fictional story, it is horrifying because we know that it could be true. These things really did happen, and not that long ago.
For me, The Judge's Wife is a story of two halves. The author has chosen to tell this story using three female lead characters; Grace, the judge's wife of the title; Emma the grown-up daughter of the judge and Rosa, the daughter of Vikram - the Indian doctor who stole Grace's heart all those years ago. Grace's story begins in 1954 as she is taken to Our Lady's Asylum in County Wicklow. Emma and Rosa's stories are told thirty years later in 1984.
I found, during the first 100 pages or so of the story, that it was quite difficult to keep up with the change from the 50s to the 80s and from Ireland to India. I would have preferred longer chapters, so that I could engage a little more with each character. However, the strength of the story and of the emotional impact soon overrides any small criticism I had of the structure and I found myself caught up in the total injustice suffered by Grace and wondering just how any of these characters would ever find peace.
Grace is a wonderfully drawn character. An innocent, thrust into a world that is like nothing she has ever known, with no choices. Despite the wealth of her surroundings and the intellect of those who she associates with, Grace has a strength of character that will remain with her through some incredibly tragic and difficult times. She's like a breath of fresh air in a stuffy dusty room, and the author's descriptions of her fabulous 1950's wardrobe designed by the real-life Irish designer Sybil Connelly is delightful.
Life at Our Lady's Asylum was horrific for Grace and her fellow patients. Care is not a word that can be attributed to the people who held the keys, or the people who managed the Asylum. Ann O'Loughlin has captured the fears and the dreams of the women incarcerated within the walls of the building so well, these characters burst to life, and the reader will love them, and root for them.
The Judge's Wife is a powerful and moving story, very well written with characters that are fascinating and a central theme that is quite tragic.
My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.
Psychiatric care in Ireland - the issue at the heart of The Judge's Wife
Grace Moran, the central character in The Judge's Wife was one of the unclaimed left to languish in an Irish asylum; left there even though she did not have mental difficulties - her only sin to fall in love .....
Author Ann O'Loughlin says it is now time to shine a light on past psychiatric care in Ireland.
'The Irish Government should at the very least commission a full independent report on the mental hospital system. There has in Ireland been an acknowledgement in relation to abuse in industrial schools and the horror of the Magdalene Laundries but for those who were incarcerated and left unclaimed in mental hospitals, there has been nothing.' she said.
By 1966, Ireland was incarcerating a higher proportion of its people in mental hospitals than anywhere else in the world. It follows that very many of these people (21,000 at the height of the system) were not mentally ill but were locked up for what Ann believes were social, political and familial reasons.
It is believed that 11,000 people died every decade in Irish mental hospitals - that's 33,000 people between the 1930s and the 1950s. Many of them died because of neglect and insanitary conditions.
A leading journalist in Ireland for nearly thirty years, Ann O'Loughlin has covered all major news events of the last three decades. Ann spent most of her career with Independent Newspapers, where she was security correspondent at the height of the Troubles, and was a senior journalist on the Irish Independent and Evening Herald.
She is currently a senior journalist with the Irish Examiner newspaper; covering legal issues. Ann has also lived and worked in India.
Originally from the west of Ireland, she now lives on the east coast of Ireland with her husband and two children.
Find out more about Ann and her writing at annoloughlin.blogspot.co.uk
Follow her on Twitter @annolwriter