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Secret Scripture (Secrets & Lies) by…
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Secret Scripture (Secrets & Lies) (original 2008; edition 2011)

by Sebastian Barry

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,4701394,036 (3.85)275
Roseanne McNulty, once one of the most beautiful and beguiling girls in County Sligo, Ireland, is now an elderly patient at Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital. As her hundredth year draws near, she decides to record the events of her life, hiding the manuscript beneath the floorboards. Meanwhile, the hospital is preparing to close and is evaluating its patients to determine whether they can return to society. Dr. Grene, Roseanne's caretaker, takes a special interest in her case. In his research, he discovers a document written by a local priest that tells a very different story of Roseanne's life than what she recalls. As doctor and patient attempt to understand each other, they begin to uncover long-buried secrets about themselves.… (more)
Member:paulmorriss
Title:Secret Scripture (Secrets & Lies)
Authors:Sebastian Barry
Info:Faber & Faber (2011), Edition: Secrets and Lies ed., Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:***1/2
Tags:None

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The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry (2008)

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» See also 275 mentions

English (130)  Dutch (5)  French (1)  Italian (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (138)
Showing 1-5 of 130 (next | show all)
A novel about an elderly Irish woman, Roseanne McNulty, living in a large, rambling hospital that has been her home for decades and is now going to be knocked down. She decides to look back over her life and write down her own account in secret. Alongside this story is that of Dr Grene, the psychiatrist, who is supposed to be assessing Roseanne to decide where she will go when the hospital closes but instead he becomes fascinated by her and the reader also becomes involved in his own sad story. Within all of this is the history of the Irish Civil War and how that affected communities, the abuse of the church and a discussion about memories and truth. Quite a lot to fit into a fairly short novel. In some ways it is an excellently told story that I was engaged with but the ending was somewhat unsatisfactory and contrived. The novel seems to decide not to take sides about who is good and who is bad and offers explanations for the hurtful and abusive actions of various characters. The revelation about the varying accounts of the same story and that both of them are true in their own way is a little clumsy among the rest of the lovely writing. ( )
  Tifi | Sep 30, 2019 |
An odd book, this. We have a compelling narrator with a mysterious past, but we keep getting wrenched away for another far less interesting protagonist. Oh, and the ending is ridiculous. But when it’s good it really is rather good! ( )
  alexrichman | Jun 12, 2019 |
I finished this book last night and thought - 5 stars! There was a satisfying wrap up at the end. This morning I thought, "That was a contrived ending...4 stars." By midday, I'm thinking - 3 stars. It's a horror story, really, with one of the most evil characters I've ever encountered, a priest, and indifferent institutions (psychiatric hospitals) and the grinding blood lust of insurrections. The story wants to be about forgiveness, and redemption. The heroine is "saved" by listening to herself, by taking her own story seriously. The hero is saved in a parallel narration by the same process. He is not afraid, finally, to take inventory "Somewhere in my heart, in the passport of my heart, if you opened it, you would see my real face - unwashed, seared by fire, terrified, ungrateful, diseased, and dumb." (I went back to page 195 to check on this quote and discovered that the female narrator says it, not, as I remembered, the male.)
Ah, yes, and much of this novel talks about memory, but it didn't quite make the case clearly. I couldn't figure out what Mr. Barry was trying to say about memory. We're selective? We tell the truth anyway even when we get the facts wrong?
There were lovely passages - I've noted p.23 and pgs.149-50 on the little fluttering scraps of paper I seize to record on when I just cannot turn the page without saying, "Wow..." ( )
  MaryHeleneMele | May 6, 2019 |
As soon as I started reading this book, I remembered how much I enjoy this author's style of writing.
Sentences like' That place where I was born was a cold place. Even the mountains stood away.' captivated me.
The characters are so compassionately drawn. He has a marvellous ear for dialogue.
I always finish his books wanting more.
I will say though that I anticipated the revelations in the tale before they were revealed and like other readers I wished I had read the series in sequential order. ( )
  HelenBaker | Feb 19, 2019 |
On the surface this is simply the memoir of an aged Irish woman, one Roseanne McNulty, looking back over her life. As it progresses and interlaces with Dr. Grene’s evaluation of her at the asylum that’s been her home for decades, it slowly becomes much, much more. And that is the magic of this book. It becomes a history of the bloody politics of the Irish Civil War, a testament against the abuse of the most vulnerable by both the church and the state, and a challenge to the concept of absolute truth. And all the while Roseanne’s own story continues to unfold, leading to a revelation that seems guided by fate. Like Days Without End, this is gorgeously written from beginning to end. ( )
  wandaly | Jul 9, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 130 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barry, Sebastianprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hogan, StephenReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Janzon, Leifsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jonkers, JohannesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McCaddon, WandaReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosenbloom, MiriamCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Xavier, PatríciaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The greatest imperfection is in out inward sight that is to be ghosts unto our own eyes.
--Sir Thomas Browne Christian Morals

Of the numbers who study or at least read history, how few derive any advantage from their labours! . . . Besides there is much uncertainty even in the best authenticated ancient and modern histories; and that love of truth, which in some minds is innate and immutable, necessarily leads to a love of secret memoirs and private anecdotes.
--Maria Edgeworth, Preface to Castle Rackrent
Dedication
For Margaret Synge
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The world begins anew with every birth, my father used to say.
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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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