The Secret Scripture

The Secret Scripture

3.9 49
by Sebastian Barry
     
 

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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

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Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Dinitia Smith
Above all it is the surpassing quality of Mr. Barry's language that gives it its power. A woman is as "young and slight as a watercolor, a mere gesture of bones and features." Swans in a rainstorm are like "unsuccessful suicides." And the moon—well the moon is "prince of all outside," he writes. "Its light lay in a solemn glister on the windowpanes"…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 off 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.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Playwright Barry's touching novel turned plenty of heads upon its release, as an elderly mental patient documents her life and times in County Sligo, Ireland, while her doctor uncovers a remarkably different story of her existence. Wanda McCaddon's British dialect is no hindrance to her remarkable portrayal of protagonist Roseanne McNulty, as she leaps into character with a stunning, perfect Irish accent that captures every nuance of the West Coast dialect. McCaddon's performance is among the best of the year. Her believable portrayal is perfectly modulated and nuance-filled, creating a stunning listening experience. A Viking hardcover (Reviews, Mar. 31). (Oct.)

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The Boston Globe
Just 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 . . .
—Margot Livesey
O Magazine
Luminous and lyrical.
—Pam Houston
Salon.com
I'd nominate Sebastian Barry, the most exhilarating prose stylist in Irish fiction-which just about makes him, by definition, the best prose writer in the English language . . . Barry has shown a dazzling facility with poetry, drama and fiction-his 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 Barry's 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 by history.
—Allen Barra
Library Journal

As her 100th birthday nears, Roseanne McMulty documents the story of her difficult life in a manuscript she hides from the staff of the Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital. Author Barry (A Long Long Way) describes 1930s-40s Ireland in bold, vibrant language, while Wanda McCaddon (What Was She Thinking?) does a spectacular job voicing the characters, playing at turns an aging, haunted woman and a mourning male doctor. Among the year's best audio adaptations; highly recommended for all collections. [Audio clip available through www.blackstoneaudio.com; the Viking hc was longlisted for the 2008 Booker® Prize.-Ed.]
—Stephen L. Hupp

Kirkus Reviews
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. Grenedetermines 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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670019403
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
06/12/2008
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.76(w) x 8.48(h) x 1.06(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
" [Barry writes] in language of surpassing beauty. . . . 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."
-Dinitia Smith, The New York Times

" Barry recounts all this in prose of often startling beauty. Just as he 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."
-Margot Livesey, The Boston Globe

"Luminous and lyrical."
-O, The Oprah Magazine

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