The Secret Scripture
by Sebastian Barry
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Pub Date 05 Mar 2015 | Archive Date 20 Jan 2023
Faber and Faber Ltd, Faber & Faber
*NEW NOVEL OLD GOD'S TIME AVAILABLE TO PRE-ORDER*
Winner of the 2008 Costa Book of the Year
Winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize 2008
Winner of the Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year 2008
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2008
A Sunday Times Top 100 Novel of the Twenty-First Century
Featured on BBC2's 'Between the Covers' as a Booker Gem 2021
Nearing her one-hundredth birthday, Roseanne McNulty faces an uncertain future, as the Roscommon Regional Mental hospital where she's spent the best part of her adult life prepares for closure. Over the weeks leading up to this upheaval, she talks often with her psychiatrist Dr Grene, and their relationship intensifies and complicates. Told through their respective journals, the story that emerges is at once shocking and deeply beautiful. Refracted through the haze of memory and retelling, Roseanne's story becomes an alternative, secret history of Ireland's changing character and the story of a life blighted by terrible mistreatment and ignorance, and yet marked still by love and passion and hope.
'It's a story to treasure, and Roseanne is a teller to remember.' The Times
'Richly allusive and haunting ... magnificent and heart-rending.' Joseph O’Connor, Guardian
'In Roseanne McNulty - sly, confused, defiant, passionate - Sebastian Barry has created one of the most memorable narrators in recent fiction.' Sunday Telegraph
'The Secret Scripture is one of the first great novels of this century.' Evening Herald (Ireland)
'A beautiful book about human frailty and mistakes people live to rue.' Irish Independent
'The Secret Scripture assembles a disquieting portrait of a woman destroyed by politics and misogyny ... exceptionally finely written.' Daily Telegraph
'A poignant story of the horrors and hypocrisies of rural Ireland, the cruelties of civil war and the pernicious influence of the priesthood.' Daily Mail
'Barry remains the master of language in this formidable book.' Sunday Independent
'These lives are reimagined in language of surpassing beauty.' New York Times
'Luminous and lyrical.' O (The Oprah Winfrey Magazine)
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 36 members
I loved this book the first time around and I enjoyed it so much more upon reading for a second time. Sebastian Barry is a master at his craft. This story is based on such a difficult time in Ireland's history but he tells it with tenderness and beauty.
This is a beautifully written, haunting and profoundly moving novel from Sebastian Barry, an eye opening unofficial history of Ireland, the political turbulence, its misogyny, the injustice, ignorance, and a damning indictment of the Catholic Church, its abuse of power and judgementalism. The powerful and heartbreaking narrative, whilst somehow retaining hope, moves back and forth in time, focusing on the nature of memory, that asks the question, what is truth? 100 year old Roseanne McNulty has been incarcerated in Roscommon psychiatric hospital for most of her life, but it is facing closure, and it has fallen to Dr Grene to evaluate whether she really should have been committed in the first place. The understated and captivating story shifts from the secret hidden journal written by Roseanne to that of Dr Grene's journal, the two providing two very different perspectives as Roseanne's tragic truth is slowly unveiled, revealing how she came to end up at the asylum.
This is an extraordinary, thoughtful and engaging book that reflects Ireland's troubled history, it is of its time, of family, religion, women, love, loss and grief. If you have not yet got round to reading this, I strongly urge you to do so. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Faber and Faber.
The Secret Scripture is the seventh stand-alone novel by Irish author, Sebastian Barry. Against the background of the imminent closure of an Irish mental facility, an ageing psychiatrist reviews his remaining patients for suitability to re-enter the community at large. Dr William Grene, Senior Pyschiatrist at Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital, is particularly concerned about hundred-year-old Roseanne McNulty, suspecting that her sectioning some sixty-plus years ago, like many others of that era, may have been based on social convenience rather than psychiatric need.
Barry sets up his story as twin narrations: “Dr Grene’s Commonplace Book” is meant to contain a professional account of the last days of the hospital, but Will includes his personal observations about Roseanne McNulty and the results of his investigations into her admission as well as events, past and present, in his own life; “Roseanne’s Testimony of Herself” is a secret memoir that Roseanne writes and keeps hidden, detailing events in her life leading up to her sectioning, along with present day happenings. This novel has a marvellous cast of characters, credible dialogue and a brilliant plot.
Astute readers will have twigged to the who and what of the mystery half-way through the novel, but this in no way reduces the enjoyment or the compulsion to continue reading Barry’s beautiful prose for the how and why. Barry touches on many topics including the chequered history of mental institutions, the Irish Civil War, the power of the Catholic Church in 20th century Ireland and whether there is such a thing as factual truth (or does it all depend on the accuracy of a person’s memory?). This was a great read and I will be looking for the companion works to this one that Barry has written: The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, and Our Lady of Sligo.
This unbiased review is from a copy provided by NetGalley and Faber & Faber
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