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The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

The Secret Scripture (2008)

by Sebastian Barry

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: McNulty Family (4)

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2,3791373,953 (3.85)274
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English (129)  Dutch (5)  French (1)  Italian (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (137)
Showing 1-5 of 129 (next | show all)
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 |
I debated between 3 and 4 stars. I thought this was a really good story, and I liked the writing. I finally settled on 3 because I decided I wouldn't put this on my "to read" list due to its darkness. Any narrator who calmly describes burning animals alive is not someone I want to read. Besides, this is a rather sad story, with no silver lining that I saw. I don't need that in my life. I listened to the abridged audio, played in 10 13-minute segments. Obviously I missed a good deal of the tale. ( )
  Lit_Cat | Dec 9, 2017 |
This is a brilliant book fron a master story teller. Barry's writing is poetic and memorable, and every chapter brings more wisdom and insights. I'm left astounded by some of the home truths this book containbs. The central character, Roseanne, is intriguing and very likeable, and her interactions with Dr Grene - who must assess whether the 100-year-old is fit to leave the asylum and be placed into the community - are exquisite in their decorum and brevity. Barry shows a great deal of restraint here. Nothing is overstated or laboured. With the lightest of touches, an entire life history is exposed - or is it? - shall we say, multiple versions of *what really happened* are presented for our consideration. Roseanne's long incarceration in the asylum reveals much about not only her own life, but also about the duplicity, expedience, and double standards of church and state in Ireland, and indeed elsewhere. Times have NOT changed all that much in amny ways. ( )
  ClareRhoden | Nov 4, 2017 |
The Secret Scripture - Barry
Audio performance by Wanda McCaddon
5 stars

“Memory, I must suppose, if it is neglected becomes like a box room, or a lumber room in an old house, the contents jumbled about, maybe not only from neglect but also from too much haphazard searching in them, and things to boot thrown in that don't belong there.”

“For history as far as I can see is not the arrangement of what happens, in sequence and in truth, but a fabulous arrangement of surmises and guesses held up as a banner against the assault of withering truth.”

Roseanne McNulty is approaching her 100th birthday. She has a story to tell, but she’s doesn’t want to talk about it. Not really. She certainly doesn’t want to answer questions. She’s keeping a journal, a secret scripture. She’s one very sharp old lady, is Roseanne McNulty, but the question is, is she sane? What kind of an unreliable narrator is she?

For more than forty years, Roseanne has been confined in the Roscommon Regional Medical Hospital. The decaying psychiatric hospital facility is about to be closed, decertified and destroyed. While Roseanne writes her personal history, her secret scripture, her psychiatrist tries to determine when and why she was committed. Was she truly insane, or was her confinement another hidden atrocity of political and social abuse?

So the story is told in two voices, Roseanne and her psychiatrist, Dr. Grene. I loved Roseanne immediately. She does tell her story and remember events in a way that allows her to survive. Not always factually reliable; there are gaps that leave the reader (me) still wondering about exactly what happened and who was responsible. I’m not as forgiving as Roseanne McNulty. Dr. Grene was less endearing. I found him whiny and ineffectual. He was more tolerable in written form than in the audiobook. Wanda McCaddon is not my favorite voice artist. I usually avoid her, but she was perfect for Roseanne McNulty, just perfect. She was totally wrong for Dr. Grene . They needed a male voice for that part.

There’s wonderful, wonderful, writing in this book; powerful images, vibrant characters, lyrical prose. Roseanne was a marginally educated, Protestant, Irish woman during the 20th century. She is relating her childhood, her traumatic losses, her young adulthood. She doesn’t always have access to accurate information. Children are not told the real reasons for the bad things that happen. Trauma and time distorts memory. Without dates given or exposition on the historical events of the time, Sebastian Barry relates the effects of political and social upheavals from the first person perspective of a powerless individual. It works; Roseanne McNulty is a character that lives beyond the author’s pen. Powerless she may have been, but what a survivor! ( )
  msjudy | Mar 28, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 129 (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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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
For Margaret Synge
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The world begins anew with every birth, my father used to say.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
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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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143115693, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:09 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

This story pits two contradictory narratives against each other in an attempt to solve the mystery of a 100-year-old mental patient.

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