The Secret Scripture: A NovelHardback
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- Publisher: FABER & FABER
- Format: Hardback | 320 pages
- Dimensions: 161mm x 241mm x 28mm | 557g
- Publication date: 1 May 2008
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0571215289
- ISBN 13: 9780571215287
- Sales rank: 144,195
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.
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Sebastian Barry was born in Dublin in 1955. His plays include Our Lady of Sligo and The Pride of Parnell Street, and his novels, Annie Dunne and most recently, A Long Long Way. He has won numerous awards, among them the London Critics Circle Award, and now lives in Wicklow with his family.
aThese lives are reimagined in language of surpassing beauty. Above all it is the surpassing quality of Mr. Barryas language that gives it its power . . . Mr. Barry has said that his novels and plays often begin as poems (he is a published poet), but his language never clots the flow of his story; it never gives a whiff of labor and strain. 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.a aDinitia Smith, "NY Times Daily Book Review" aJust as he (Barry) 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 . . . When I reached the last page, I did feel that I had shared a profound experience . . .a aMargot Livesey, "The Boston Globe" aLuminous and lyrical.a aPam Houston, "O Magazine" aIad nominate Sebastian Barry, the most exhilarating prose stylist in Irish fictionawhich just about makes him, by definition, the best prose writer in the English language . . . Barry has shown a dazzling facility with poetry, drama and fictionahis works form a mosaic-like whole, though each stands on its own. He never uses a fancy word when a simple one will do; his characters speak a plain vocabulary, but in cadences tempered and honed into poetry . . . Sebastian Barryas achievement is unlike that of any other modern Western writer, a tapestry of interrelated works in different mediums woven from strands of his past and that of his country. "The Secret Scripture" fits seamlessly into a vision that seeks to restore with language that which has been taken away byhistory.a aAllen Barra, "Salon.com"
A subtle study of psychology, religion, family and politics in Ireland.This is not, as the title might suggest, another Da Vinci Code clone. Barry (A Long Long Way, 2005, etc.) writes vigorously and passionately about his native land. The story is told antiphonally, alternating narratives between a secret journal (hidden beneath the floorboard) kept by Roseanne McNulty, a patient in a mental hospital, and the "Commonplace Book" of her psychiatrist Dr. Grene, who's dealing with serious issues of grief after the death of his wife. Roseanne has always been something of an outsider, her father a cemetery-keeper and rat-catcher but most importantly a Protestant in a land largely hostile to this religious orientation. Although Roseanne remembers a happy childhood, in which she was the proverbial apple of her father's eye, he becomes involved in the political and military entanglements of Irish political life. When Roseanne grows up, she becomes the wife of Tom McNulty, but through a series of misunderstandings - as well as through the machinations of the grim-faced and soul-destroying priest, Fr. Gaunt - she is as good as accused (though falsely) of adultery with the son of a political rebel. Out of malice toward Protestants as well as out of a misplaced moral absolutism, Fr. Gaunt has her marriage annulled - and, using nymphomania to explain her "condition," has her locked up in the asylum. Dr. Grene gets interested in her story as well as her history, and in tracking down her past he finds a secret that she has kept hidden for many years, a secret that affects them both and that intertwines their families. In a final assessment of Roseanne - after she's spent decades in the asylum - Dr. Grene determines that she is "blameless." She responds: "'Blameless? I hardly think that is given to any mortal being.'" Indeed, blamelessness is a state no one achieves in this novel.Barry beautifully braids together the convoluted threads of his narrative. (Kirkus Reviews)