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The Secret Scripture
     

The Secret Scripture

3.9 50
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 latest novel, Days Without End, will be available from Viking in January 2017. 

Sebastian Barry's novels have been hugely admired by readers and critics, and in 2005 his novel A Long Long Way was

Overview

An epic story of family, love, and unavoidable tragedy from the two-time Man Booker Prize finalist. Sebastian Barry's latest novel, Days Without End, will be available from Viking in January 2017. 

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. The Secret Scripture is soon to be a film starring Jessica Chastain and Vanessa Redgrave.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101202920
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/12/2008
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
134,226
File size:
306 KB
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

Meet the Author

Sebastian Barry was born in Dublin in 1955. His plays include Boss Grady's Boys (1988), The Steward of Christendom (1995), Our Lady of Sligo (1998), The Pride of Parnell Street (2007), and Dallas Sweetman (2008). Among his novels are The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty (1998), Annie Dunne (2002) and A Long Long Way (2005), the latter shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. His poetry includes The Water-Colourist (1982), Fanny Hawke Goes to the Mainland Forever (1989) and The Pinkening Boy (2005). His awards include the Irish-America Fund Literary Award, The Christopher Ewart-Biggs Prize, the London Critics Circle Award, The Kerry Group Irish Fiction Prize, and Costa Awards for Best Novel and Book of the Year. He lives in Wicklow with his wife Ali, and three children, Merlin, Coral, and Tobias.

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Secret Scripture 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 50 reviews.
Frisbeesage More than 1 year ago
This is the haunting story of an elderly woman who has lived quietly in a mental hospital for many years. The resident doctor becomes interested in her case and digs up her history in an attempt to decide if she really is insane.
This book has been short listed for the Booker award and it¿s easy to see why. Lyrical prose combined with a captivating plot make for a book I couldn't put down. Above all I loved the pacing, the book starts out slowly, all about the beautiful writing, and then the plot takes over, building to a big climax.
I listened to the audio version of this. Wanda McCaddon's Irish accent really added to the atmosphere and context of the story. She does an especially impressive job with elderly Roseanne's voice versus young Roseanne's voice. I highly recommend listening to this one!
adunlea More than 1 year ago
Book Review of The Secret Scripture by Annette Dunlea This book is now available in paperback, published by Faber and Faber and its ISBN is: 0571215297. It was short listed for the man Booker Prize 2008 and won the Costa Book of The Year 2008. It is literary Irish fiction at its best. It records the past dominance of church in secular relations and the maltreatment of women in the hands of men. The story is heard in two voices the elderly Roseanne Mc Nulty a patient and Dr.Greene a psychiatrist. Roseanne is a very old woman who records her secret history in her secret journal and in vivid poetic prose. The doctor is forced to re-evaluate his patients in the asylum and see if they can be released into the community, therein lies the plot of the tale. Our purpose is to discover the reason for Roseanne's admission and in doing so we get a history of Irish life in Sligo in 1930. Dr. Greene too records his interviews with Roseanne. His voice is in a different more modern tone to hers. He is an independent impartial observer to her tale. Gentle not to upset her he teases information from her and so we are left to discover the truth for ourselves. The paradox of the imperfection of human memory as opposed to the factual written word is show here. She develops a wonderful relationship with the doctor based on empathy. He too is grieving the death of his wife and his own imperfection as being the ultimate healer. Roseanne was a beauty in her day living on the outskirts of society who has been maltreated by her community. By recording her tale she gives a voice to the woman who was institutionalized by priests and by society unjustly. In recording her annals she healed herself. She is not so much a victim as a survivor. While some were dismayed by the ending I enjoyed the novel for me it is a wonderful tale on compassionate, love, life and on human inter relations. It is story telling and dialogue at its best. What he records is important but equally so is his eloquent language. Reviewed by Annette Dunlea author of Always and Forever and The Honey Trap
Jack13152 More than 1 year ago
The most beautiful and poetic prose. A story that will not leave you soon
SheilaDeeth More than 1 year ago
The walls of an asylum might hide many secrets, but Dr. Grene’s interests are fixed on elderly Roseanne McNulty as the ancient asylum’s threatened with closure. Why was she left here? What was her crime or her insanity? And how will she cope in the outside world? Roseanne hides her secrets in a diary in Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Keeper. Meanwhile her doctor keeps secrets of his own, and both tell their lives from their own point of view, adding their own interpretations to events. When the stories start to collide and combine, their mysteries slip through the cracks and hints of deeper truths appear. Father Gaunt has written the truth he claims, but he might be as unreliable in his records as poor old Roseanne is in her written recollections. Feathers and cannon balls fall from a tower, symbols of the different paths of different points of view. And the fog of Sligo finally clears to reveal a tortured truth. The characters’ voices are beautifully and consistently portrayed in this novel. The points of view are vividly real. And the promise of hope stays alight throughout the tale. My only complaint would be that I guessed the conclusion too soon, but it couldn’t stop me reading—couldn’t tear me away from the characters. An enjoyable novel, evocative, haunting, and hopeful in spite of its dark themes, this one is highly recommended. Disclosure: My sister-in-law loaned me this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sebastian Barry's language is so full, it made me want to write some of it down and also to go back and read it again...as soon as I finished the book. I did not but only because I want to wait and savor it all one more time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a pick of my book club. It was good; not the best book I have ever read. The story itself was dark and depressing. The end contained a twist I absolutely did not see coming, which was fun. The writing itself was very good....descriptive and beautiful if somewhat rambling at times. Not a book I would have finished had it not been for the book club, but I am glad I did. It has sparked an interest in Irish history for me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The writing is poetic, it is a book you absolutely cannot skim. Read every word. This is the first book I've read by this author and I will definitely read the rest of his work.
Andrew_of_Dunedin 5 months ago
n “Keeping the Faith”, Billy Joel advises us that “... the good ol' days weren't always good, and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems ...” In “The Secret Scripture”, Sebastian Barry tells the story of Roseanne McNulty, an Irish girl born ahead of her time, waiting for society's impressions of a woman's place to catch up. Her reward was life in a mental institution – an institution preparing to shut down and the staff wondering what to do with their 98 year old long-term resident. Meanwhile, the psychiatrist in charge of the facility finds himself distracted by the death of his wife. “The Secret Scripture” was not my usual read. There were no crimes to solve, no car crashes, no demons … well, not unless they wore human form. Certainly nothing remotely resembling “mindless entertainment” - it was required to THINK while reading this book. I can do that on occasion and still enjoy a book. But, since I have to think for a living, I prefer my reading to be, um, less “deep”. Can't fault the author for that, however – my issue, not his!! RATING: 4 stars.
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Cant imagine how anyone couldnt like this book
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I always finish a book no matter how bad or slow - until this book. I couldn't even make it 1/2 way through it. It is horribly boring. There didn't seem any point to it.
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