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The Secret Scripture

by Sebastian Barry, Sebastian Barry

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: McNulty Family (4)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,8691544,994 (3.86)297
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)
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» See also 297 mentions

English (145)  Dutch (5)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  Italian (1)  French (1)  All languages (154)
Showing 1-5 of 145 (next | show all)
4 stars

"Friend or enemy, no one has the monopoly on truth -- not even myself. And that is also a very vexing and worrying thought."

The Irish have a deep and rich literary tradition. After Greek and Latin, Irish literature is the oldest literature in Europe. Not surprisingly, Dubliner Sebastian Barry adds to this heritage in the subtle yet moving novel [b:The Secret Scripture|3419808|The Secret Scripture|Sebastian Barry|http://images.gr-assets.com/books/1325714117s/3419808.jpg|3460278].

Barry introduces readers to Roseanne McNulty, who at nearly 100 years old has spent most of her adult life at Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital. Her psychaitrist, Dr. Greene, reviews Roseanne's case history and finds startling differences between Roseanne's account of her life, and the statements provided to the hospital by Roseanne's family and the family priest prior to her admittance. Barry masterfully uses this plot structure to examine truth, the history of Ireland in the early 1900's, the haze of memory, and the unquestioning reverence given to the Catholic Church in that era.

Barry writes like a poet, and readers (or listeners) will want to linger over his words. It took me about 30 minutes of listening to the audio before I started to enjoy (or appreciate) the narrative. Some patience may be required for this book, but a payoff exists. This is a book I won't soon forget. ( )
  jj24 | May 27, 2024 |
A wonderful book. Roseanne McNulty, 100 years old, is a long-term patient of Roscommon Mental Hospital. She's Doctor Grene's patient. Secretly, she starts to record her memories, shifting, uncertain, lyrically expressed. Doctor Grene, whose own life is difficult, has access to a different version of her life story, and she does not confide her own to him. Hers was a life lived against a background of civil war and religious intolerance, of poverty, and the mental illness of her mother. Though many of her memories are bleak, Roseanne herself is warm, often funny, always sympathetic. Dr. Grene's losses and hurts are woven into the narrative, and at the end, his history, and that of Roseanne are interlinked in a most surprising way. This is a beautifully written and tragic novel about damaged but utterly sympathetic characters. ( )
  Margaret09 | Apr 15, 2024 |
This is a lovely book in many ways and I enjoyed it. The writing is striking and poetic in places, and the two main characters - an institutional psychiatrist and his 100-year-old resident patient - are complicated, sympathetic and believable. The story is engaging, and there is a mystery that propels you to the end. But the revelation of the mystery was a little incredible, and while very clever, it had a slightly saccharine fairytale quality to it that wasn't really needed and somewhat betrayed the more ambivalent and sometimes tragic weight of the rest of the book. ( )
  breathslow | Jan 27, 2024 |
A heartbreaking story told in 2 voices: Roseanne, nearing her 100th birthday having spent over half her life in an insane asylum, is secretly recording her shadowed past. Roseanne's psychiatrist Dr. Grene is trying to uncover her story to determine if she had been rightly committed. In alternating chapters, slowly two very different stories emerge as they circle the "truth". Beautifully written. ( )
  jemisonreads | Jan 22, 2024 |
While the story of the book wasn't all bad, from a historical perspective I kind of liked it, I really hated this book. I just could not get over the poetic ramblings by Barry. The fact that Sebastian Barry felt like he had to describe every little thing in his book as if it was a melancholic painting just made me angry. So it didn't matter what happened in the book, everytime when he so much as described a ray of sunlight my eyes involuntarily started to roll. I think this book had a nice premise with an average story which was thoroughly ruined by a writer trying to be dramatic. ( )
  bramboomen | Oct 18, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 145 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barry, SebastianAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barry, Sebastianmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Hogan, StephenReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Janzon, Leifsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jonkers, JohannesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lévy-Paoloni, FlorenceTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McCaddon, WandaReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oeser, Hans-ChristianTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Potokar, JureTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rocco, NeelTranslatorsecondary 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
First words
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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Wikipedia in English (1)

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.

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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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