The Secret Scripture

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Press:Viking Adult Viking Adult; 1st edition (June 12, 2008)
Publication Date:2008-06-12
Author Name:Sebastian Barry


An epic story of family, love, and unavoidable tragedy from the two-time Man Booker Prize finalist Sebastian Barry 's novels have been hugely admired by readers and critics, and in 2005 his novel A Long Long Way was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. 
In The Secret Scripture, Barry revisits County Sligo, Ireland, the setting for his previous three books, to tell the unforgettable story of Roseanne McNulty.
Once one of the most beguiling women in Sligo, she is now a resident of Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital and nearing her hundredth year.
Set against an Ireland besieged by conflict, The Secret Scripture is an engrossing tale of one woman's life, and a vivid reminder of the stranglehold that the Catholic church had on individuals throughout much of the twentieth century.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* From the first page, Barry’s novel sweeps along like the Garravogue River through Sligo town, taking “the rubbish down to the seas, and bits of things that were once owned by people and pulled from the banks, and bodies, too, if rarely, oh, and poor babies, that were embarrassments, the odd time.” We are in the head and the journal of 100-year-old “mad” Roseanne McNulty, locked up for decades in an asylum in rural west Ireland. 
She has begun writing her life story, hiding it nightly beneath her bedroom’s creaking floorboards.
Simultaneously, her putative therapist, Dr.
Grene, who barely knows her, much less her history or prognosis, begins an observation journal about her.
The asylum is to be downsized, and he must determine whether she is sane enough to live on her own.
He attempts to reconstruct the reasons for her imprisonment, as it turns out to be, and that pitches the novel into the dark depths of Ireland’s civil war and the antiwoman proscriptions on sexuality of the national regime Joyce famously called “priestridden.” Barry weaves together Grene’s and Roseanne’s stories, which are ultimately the same story, masterfully and with intense emotionality that nevertheless refuses to become maudlin.
Another notable part of Barry’s artistry is the sheer poetry of his prose, now heart-stoppingly lyrical, now heart-poundingly thrilling.
An unforgettable portrait of mid-twentieth-century Ireland.
--Patricia Monaghan


" [Barry writes] in language of surpassing beauty. 
It is like a song, with all the pulse of the Irish language, a song sung liltingly and plaintively from the top of Ben Bulben into the airy night." -Dinitia Smith, The New York Times " Barry recounts all this in prose of often startling beauty.
Just as he describes people stopping in the street to look at Roseanne, so I often found myself stopping to look at the sentences he gave her, wanting to pause and copy them down." -Margot Livesey, The Boston Globe "Luminous and lyrical." -O, The Oprah Magazine

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Sebastian Barry was born in Dublin in 1955. 
His plays include Boss Grady's Boys (1988), The Steward of Christendom (1995), Our Lady of Sligo (1998), The Pride of Parnell Street (2007), and Dallas Sweetman (2008).
Among his novels are The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty (1998), Annie Dunne (2002) and A Long Long Way (2005), the latter shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
His poetry includes The Water-Colourist (1982), Fanny Hawke Goes to the Mainland Forever (1989) and The Pinkening Boy (2005).
His awards include the Irish-America Fund Literary Award, The Christopher Ewart-Biggs Prize, the London Critics Circle Award, The Kerry Group Irish Fiction Prize, and Costa Awards for Best Novel and Book of the Year.
He lives in Wicklow with his wife Ali, and three children, Merlin, Coral, and Tobias.

From AudioFile

Lucky listeners receive the gift of a great narrator and an amazing writer in THE SECRET SCRIPTURE, which was nominated for the 2008 Man Booker Prize. 
Ninety-nine-year-old Roseanne McNulty has been a patient in an Irish mental hospital for over 50 years.
Not apparently crazy, she decides to write her story at the same time that the hospital director begins to interview her.
While Rose reexamines a life lived during the Irish "troubles" and within the confines of a sectarian, conformist country, Dr.
Grene tells his version of her story.
Wanda McCaddon's exquisite reading illuminates the lyrical writing, and brings listeners deep into the book's explosive emotions.
Rose's determined Irish lilt, a priest's oily tones, Dr.
Grene's fragile neutrality.
It's all here, and it's terrific.
Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Literature & Fiction,British & Irish,Historical,Contemporary,Literary

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Comment List (Total:14)

  •     A much different book that I excpected.
  •     Before she died, my 98 year old grandmother, sinking into the bog of dementia, said to me: Everyone sees this ancient skin, wrinkled, my fingers bent and swollen, my hair falling to nothing, but I am a girl inside this skin. I feel exactly the same in my mind and my heart as I did at twenty.I never forgot it, and now that my time is coming and my own skin thinning, I understand exactly what she meant.This novel about the enduring power of the human spirit in the face of unrelenting tragedy and betrayal, struck me to the heart. I found it incredibly moving and was riveted to the page.There is something about being a survivor that wounds you, takes away whole pieces of you, but despite the pain and horror, makes each small aspect of life a triumph. For Rosanne, it was the daffoldils and the roses, and the sunlight on her window pane, for others, a sunset, the pleasure of an ice cream cone in summer, the smell of just cut grass. I saw a fox in the dark night when I was driving through the village last week; it had another small animal in its mouth, trotting merrily past the pavement in front of me. I had never seen a fox before. I felt so lucky, so deliriously happy, to have seen it, as Rosanne felt with the new opening daffoldils from her window in the assylum.To see this beauty and feel this intense pleasure in ordinary things is a triumph over the brutality and ugliness that living in society can bring, as is the ability to retain one's humanity - kindness, compassion, understanding, empathy. To see the world in a grain of sand....Barry's writing is like wild strawberries bursting in your mouth, each sentence is to be savoured, and the poetry and cadence of the Irish way of speaking, whether it is the Gaelic or in English is so beautifully, so powerfully, so accurately given to us to see and hear and take away to keep. I remember listening to the Irish aunts and uncles I knew as a child, thinking that their conversation was like poetry. And it was.I saw a few negative reviews as well as the many positive ones, and it may be that in the age of television and high speed internet, that something like this that takes its time to unfold and reveal its mysteries, like Rosanne's daffolils, can seem to some as frustratingly slow. I found the pace perfect for the unravelling of Rosanne's life story, that grew more gripping each time I turned the page.I feel grateful to the author for having written it, and for the enriching experience of having read it.
  •     Boring!!!! Boring! Never got off the ground for me.
  •     Slogged through one hundred pages and could go no further.If there was a plot, I did not see it.
  •     None
  •     This is the third book I've read authored by Sebastian Barry. I've enjoyed all three. There is a twist at the end of "Secret Scripture" that was hard to believe but the...
  •     Rose McNultry is almost 100 years old. For most of her life she has been a patient in Roscommon Mental hospital in rural west Ireland.
  •     I was tempted to read this book aloud. Sometimes I had to just to hear the rhythm of his words. Barry's use of language is poetic, musical and very Irish.
  •     This all took place in early 20th century Ireland, a primitive place, with very little in the way of rights for women and children. A bright beautiful woman threatens the old fashioned values of her village by existing. The priest works for years to have her marriage annulled, she is committed for her entire life to an insane asylum. In the book she is age 100, looking back at her life...with grace humor wisdom and thank goodness still some anger. The beauty of the book lays in the way the author views the world expressed through his characters. There were many many phrases I underlined and read again and again for the wisdom and comfort they provide.
  •     Loved this book. Authentic Irish prose. Surprise ending.
  •     One of the best books I've read. Great story and surprise ending. Character development: superior. I was IN Ireland with the protagonists even though I was on my couch in...
  •     What a great book. It takes you through the life of an amazing woman and keeps you guessing the whole way through. I absolutely recommend this book. So well written.
  •     A compelling story, perhaps Barry's best. I read this at the suggestion of a friend. It is the story of an elderly lady named Rosanna, confined to a mental hospital for many many years. The reader quickly learns that she is not really mentally ill and is writing a history of her life and sequestering it under the floorboards of the room so that the authorities do not see its contents and destroy them. Her account begins with an incident involving youths from the IRA when she is a child. Her father is the local keeper of the cemetery and is asked to bury a boy who has been killed in a night raid. Complications ensue with the priest who refuses the proper prayers for the dead, creating an instant tension that carries through the whole book.Much of the story is related through Rosanna's writings and the clinical notes of the doctor who visits her frequently for conversation more than medical assessment. She clearly anticipates his visits with pleasure. He in turn begins to share his feelings with her over time. Her only other human contact is the janitor who is deeply connected to her past. The details of that are not revealed until the end of the story. The stunning beauty of Barry's prose and the minuscule unfolding of the details of Rosanna's life over ninety some odd years holds the reader to the very end with an unexpected climax.Sebastian Barry is sometimes criticized for basing his characters on family members, and indeed many of his books connect various family members. Of six books I have read, three are directly connected; the other three treat the stories of various outlying family members with sensitive gentleness. His most recent book The Temporary Gentleman continues the saga of the Mc Nulty family with the story of Jack, the 'bad' brother.
  •     Rose McNulty Has been incarcerated in an asylum in Sligo, for the best part of her life. With the "improvement" of conditions in mental health, she is being assessed for possible release into the community. At 100 years old, she is past rehabilitation although as sharp as knife! Her Dr in seeking answers to her original admission, finds a mystery in the variance between her story and the official version. Following it through with extraordinary perseverance, to a less than probable conclusion.Although a rather depressing account of life in Ireland, from depression days until today, some of the prose is brilliant.The diary and especially the deeply perspicacious thoughts of the heroine, are hard to associate with a centenarian, the bigotry and weakness of most characters even more so. However ,on research it appears that the story is based closely on the life of an aunt of the author,I wish I had read that first!

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