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The secret scripture : a novel by Sebastian…
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The secret scripture : a novel (original 2008; edition 2008)

by Sebastian Barry

Series: McNulty Family (4)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,5791444,245 (3.85)277
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:andres_escoces
Title:The secret scripture : a novel
Authors:Sebastian Barry
Info:London : Faber and Faber, 2008.
Collections:Your library
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Tags:to-read

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The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry (2008)

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English (136)  Dutch (5)  French (1)  Italian (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (144)
Showing 1-5 of 136 (next | show all)
Closer to a 3.5. I don’t know. There are moments in this book that I found really touching, lines that I thought were really beautiful, but this was a pretty short book that moved at a glacial pace for me. ( )
  jobinsonlis | May 11, 2021 |
"There is seldom a difficulty with religion where there is friendship."

Religion and politics are rarely cosy bedfellows and nowhere during the 20th century in Western Europe is this more evident than in Ireland with its sectarianism. In "The Secret Scripture" Barry tries to expose some very painful truths done to the country and its inhabitants in the name of religion.

Set in Sligo the narration is shared between Roseanne McNulty, a centurion who has spent over sixty years in a psychiatric institution, and her psychiatrist Dr Grene. Roseanne's records have long been lost but as the hospital nears closure, Dr Grene must try to assess whether or not she can be rehabilitated back 'into the community'.

Roseanne is reluctant to confide in Dr Grene but writes down her secrets and hides them under the floorboards. She is an old lady with secrets to hide, whose memories may not be truly accurate and who may or may not have been committed for good reason. What is not in any doubt is that she has been the victim of those who should have had her welfare in mind. Roseanne’s story is uncomfortable because although she may be fictional, her situation is not.

Roseanne comes from a Presbyterian family, her mother is English and when her father, who had once been a Police officer, dies she finds herself with nobody to speak for her. Even the reader is encouraged to distrust her, her view of events is undermined by what scraps of documentation remain. Dr Grene must decide which of his patients were committed on social rather than medical grounds.

The scars of sectarianism run deep in Ireland and Roseanne is an obvious metaphor for the country itself. She too bears the scars of crimes wrought by religion, she sought sanctuary in marriage to the man she loved but her past and the local priest would not let her. Roseanne's own faith is disregarded and she suffers because she refuses to convert to Catholicism.

Whilst it's easy to see Roseanne's story as simply a tale of how local priests were often omnipotent and that women were often the victims of their power, this book is also a timely reminder that the old too have stories of their own. They may now live in a home, have no immediate family to visit them but they too have histories, loves, losses, beliefs and therefore deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

"We are never old to ourselves. That is because at the close of the day the ship we sail in is the soul, not the body."

I should point out that this is actually the fourth in a series about the McNulty family and I haven't read any of the previous books. This may influence my opinion but I still think that this book stands on its own merits. This is a book that leaves you with as many questions as answers and whilst I found the ending as the author tries to tie up the loose endings too neat and twee for my taste it was still well written. It also annoyed me that Dr Grene ultimately decided to keep the truth from Roseanne at the end like so many men who had preceded him.

It isn't always any easy tale to read, some of the events are quite disturbing and heart-rending yet there is also love and hope, that events within it can one day be consigned to the history books. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Apr 6, 2021 |
Devastating story of the impact when church and state are too cosy, as was the case in 1920s Sligo, Ireland for Roseanne Clear. Number 2 in a trilogy (I didn't know!) but still works as a stand-alone. ( )
  Teresa1966 | Dec 22, 2020 |
A dark and engaging story that takes into account the life of ordinary people in Ireland at the time of the War of Independence and the follow-on Civil Way (1916-22). The protagonist, Roseanne, has her story told from diary entries recounting her memory from her childhood and young adulthood at this period. Well crafted, at times brilliantly written with a narrative that is careful not to choose sides in a complex recent history. Well worth a read, albeit the main story is a little too nicely wrapped up at its conclusion. ( )
  ephemeral_future | Aug 20, 2020 |
I will admit that I just about tossed it several times, even as I wanted to read a story about Ireland. I think you will enjoy it. There are two POVs, an old woman, a patient in the Regional Mental Hospital. Dr. Grene has been asked to evaluate her because the hospital is going to be town down and they need to know what to do with her. She's nearing 100 so they just can't toss her out. As they each tell their stories, Roseann remembering her life, and Dr. Grene evaluating, truths and untruths unfold, like anyone's past does. I don't think I will forget it. ( )
  melsbks | Aug 14, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 136 (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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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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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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