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The Secret Scripture
 
 

The Secret Scripture [Kindle Edition]

Sebastian Barry
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (206 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Amazon.co.uk Review

The acclaim that has greeted Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture is varied and enthusiastic, and it's not hard to see why. When Frank McGuiness praised it for ‘raw, rough beauty’ and described Sebastian Barry's fiction as ‘unique’ and ‘magnificent’, this claim was no hostage to fortune; just a few sentences of the prose here will convince most readers of the justice of those words. As in the best-selling A Long Long Way, Barry is concerned with the imperatives of telling a story, but in a literary form that is rich with both psychological understanding and a skilful conjuring of time and place.

Roseanne McNulty may (or may not) be on the point of nearing her 100th birthday -- but there is little certainty about this fact. In her twilight years, her destiny is uncertain, as the Roscommon Mental Hospital -- her home for so many years of her life -- is on the point of closing. As the fateful hour approaches, Roseanne spends her time of talking to her psychiatrist of many years, Dr Grene. The relationship between the two is strangely interdependent, and the doctor is also attempting to come to terms with the death of his wife. As we learn more about the two principal protagonists, we are presented with a rich and subtle picture of human relationships -- and the (often unintentional) damages that we all do to each other.

The form of the book consists of the separate journals of Roseanne and Dr Grene, and we gradually learn about Roseanne’s family in Sligo in the 1930s. What emergence is a poignant personal history; it is also a subtly ambitious picture of nothing less than the Irish psyche at a particular point in its history. There are echoes here of another great Irish chronicler of the human condition, William Trevor, and The Secret Scripture is no worse for that. --Barry Forshaw

Amazon Review

The acclaim that has greeted Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture is varied and enthusiastic, and it's not hard to see why. When Frank McGuiness praised it for ‘raw, rough beauty’ and described Sebastian Barry's fiction as ‘unique’ and ‘magnificent’, this claim was no hostage to fortune; just a few sentences of the prose here will convince most readers of the justice of those words. As in the best-selling A Long Long Way, Barry is concerned with the imperatives of telling a story, but in a literary form that is rich with both psychological understanding and a skilful conjuring of time and place.

Roseanne McNulty may (or may not) be on the point of nearing her 100th birthday -- but there is little certainty about this fact. In her twilight years, her destiny is uncertain, as the Roscommon Mental Hospital -- her home for so many years of her life -- is on the point of closing. As the fateful hour approaches, Roseanne spends her time of talking to her psychiatrist of many years, Dr Grene. The relationship between the two is strangely interdependent, and the doctor is also attempting to come to terms with the death of his wife. As we learn more about the two principal protagonists, we are presented with a rich and subtle picture of human relationships -- and the (often unintentional) damages that we all do to each other.

The form of the book consists of the separate journals of Roseanne and Dr Grene, and we gradually learn about Roseanne’s family in Sligo in the 1930s. What emergence is a poignant personal history; it is also a subtly ambitious picture of nothing less than the Irish psyche at a particular point in its history. There are echoes here of another great Irish chronicler of the human condition, William Trevor, and The Secret Scripture is no worse for that. --Barry Forshaw


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 514 KB
  • Print Length: 324 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0571275605
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber Fiction (2 Oct 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S. r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI90A4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (206 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #5,005 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About 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) and The Pride of Parnell Street (2007). His novels include The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty (1998), Annie Dunne (2002), A Long Long Way (2005) and The Secret Scripture (2008). He has won, among other awards, the Irish-America Fund Literary Award, the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Prize, the London Critics Circle Award and the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Prize. A Long Long Way, which was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Dublin International Impac Prize, was the Dublin: One City One Book choice for 2007. The Secret Scripture won the Costa Book of the Year Award, the Irish Book Awards for Best Novel and the Independent Booksellers Prize. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award, Christopher Ewart-Biggs award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. He lives in Wicklow with his wife and three children.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful prose...cliched ending. 3 Mar 2009
Format:Paperback
Barry's prose is simply gorgeous, his manner of expression is poetic and tactile and I finished the book because I got caught up in his words as much as his tale. That said, the plot is also superb until the denouement, which is so trite I almost felt cheated by its convenience...but that prose drew me back in. For a painful and difficult book with such strong and well-defined characters I think the reader could have coped with an incomplete, or even broken and unsettling ending. You could argue that this is indeed the case depending on how you see things, but I felt I'd gone from reading a truly credible and important novel to reading the plot of a television movie. Definitely worth reading though. With a box of tissues.
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200 of 210 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Victim or Survivor? 28 Jan 2009
By hbw VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Roseanne McNulty is an old, old lady. Most of her life has been spent in mental institutions. As the book opens, no-one is really sure how old she is, why she was committed to an institution in the first place and whether she still needs to be in one (if she ever did).

The hospital where she now lives is due to close and psychiatrist William Grene has to decide what should happen to her. Official records are either missing or so scant as to make the old lady seem little more than a ghost.

But Roseanne has not always been a ghost: she was once a little girl; a young woman; a wife; a mother. This flesh and blood Roseanne is preserved in the "secret scripture", a hand written account of her early life kept hidden beneath a loose floorboard in her room. So whilst Dr Grene follows the sparse clues left by what remains of her in the outside world, the reader gets to hear Roseanne's story in her own words.

This is a masterful exploration of the way in which place, time and circumstance can impact on the lives of ordinary people. In this case the place is the West of Ireland and the time is the Irish Civil War and its aftermath. Roseanne's circumstances are that she is female and the daughter of a Protestant father and a mentally unstable mother.

Despite its background, this book is not about the use of institutions as a means of social control in Ireland (or anywhere else) and readers who are expecting something along those lines may be disappointed.

The writing and characterisation are firmly in the 5 star bracket, but the denouement will have you tearing your hair out, so 4 stars overall.

Nevertheless, a good read. This was my first Sebastian Barry and it inspired me to read more.
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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book 14 April 2009
Format:Paperback
I have just finished this book and found it a brilliant read. As an ordinary reader, I sometimes find Booker prize winners heavy going but this one gripped me from the start. I had to keep reminding myself that this was a work of fiction and not a true story. However, it is true in the sense that this kind of thing used to happen in Ireland and not that long ago. Roseanne's story would break your heart for all those poor people who ended up in asylums because nobody wanted them or they were an embarassment to their family. Would recommend this excellent book to anyone.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Irish Hardy 5 Nov 2008
By Gareth Smyth VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I read this more as book about the power of fate than a reworking of a theme of anti-Catholicism. In fact, it put me more in mind of Thomas Hardy than anything else. We maybe know where it's all heading but we follow the journey.

It's possible to characterise `The Secret Scripture' - like `The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty' or `A Long Long Way' - as "revisionist", and the book may please or displease some readers according to their political proclivities.

But for me this misses the value of Barry's work. As well as an ear for the beauty of language, he has an outstanding gift for characterisation and a deep if understated compassion. While well-rooted in an Ireland of a certain period, his novels touch far deeper, universal matters.

Since I read the novel (twice), I drove out from Glenfarne in north Leitrim to Rosses point and looked across to the tin man and Coney island. It was a windy, slightly wet day and you could somehow imagine Roseanne McNulty struggling along. When I got back in the car it wouldn't start and I had to call the breakdown.
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55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Secret Scripture 29 Oct 2008
Format:Hardcover
Sebastian Barry's Booker 2008 shortlisted The Secret Scripture is the first novel of his I've read. It is written in the form of logs kept by its two main protagonists, Roseanne McNulty, a frail old lady of around 100 years who has been in mental asylums for most of her adult life, and William Grene, Roseanne's psychiatrist, who is approaching retirement. The setting is a small town called Roscommon near Sligo in Ireland.

Roseanne is writing her history - as she remembers it - because she knows her life is nearing an end. William Grene is keeping a diary because his private life has imploded with the disintegration of his relationship with his wife Bet. He also has the task of assessing the patients of Roscommon mental hospital to see which can be released into the community when the hospital is pulled down and rebuilt at another site with far fewer beds. Because of this, he needs to ascertain the reasons for each patient's admission - whether they are truly 'insane' and in need of continual care in an institution, or whether they are potentially able to be re-integrated back into the community.

Thus starts a curious friendship between the two, based more on empathy than on communication. Roseanne keeps her written account of her life secret by hiding it under the floorboards and only allows Dr Grene to coax tiny fragments of her past from her. For his part, William Grene is content to not traumatise Roseanne with intrusive questioning, but the mystery of her past starts to haunt him.

The interspersing of Roseanne's and William Grene's written accounts draws the reader slowly into both their lives. Roseanne's sections are written in a more archaic tone than Dr Grene's because of her age, and the prose in her testimony is almost poetic at times, dreamy and nostalgic.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A few too many coincidences here.
I read The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry with my book club at college and I honestly didn't expect much from it. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Lauren
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!
This is one of those books that I wanted to start reading again as soon as I reached the last page and I shall certainly read more by this author. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Robin
5.0 out of 5 stars great narrative twists and turns
Beautiful story that questions what it is to be a sane, sensible human. It is a powerful depiction of love, loss and life that stays with the reader for a long time afterwards. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jos
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting
Excellent at first I struggled with the language but then I could not put the book down. I read it for my book group. Looking forward to other views
Published 1 month ago by MRS. J.M. EARL
5.0 out of 5 stars WONDERFUL NOVEL
A real page turner - not for excitetement but fora good story, well written. I loved it and strongly recommend it.
Published 1 month ago by TG
3.0 out of 5 stars Not fantastic but also not terrible
I enjoyed the booked although I guessed the ending fairly quickly. I still liked it. I would recommend it. There are parts of it annoy me. But I suppose she was mad!
Published 1 month ago by Judelle Gough
1.0 out of 5 stars Not for Me.
I found this book very difficult to get into and didn't read the whole book. Thats why I only gave it 1 star. It maybe that its just not my type of book.
Published 1 month ago by Amanda
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Very insightful, sad, moving and a really good story. Very cleverly wriiten from two very different characters veiws. Loved it.
Published 2 months ago by GLEESON NIAMH
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrible times have terrible secrets
The author shows sensitivity in his revelation of character, social background and changing times. The two voices sing antiphonally and only gradually are all the truths exposed.
Published 2 months ago by Fred Everett
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read.
A very well-written book, with an excellent storyline. Use of language is a joy. The storyline could easily have been a harrowing; miserable account of ill-treatment, but this is... Read more
Published 2 months ago by John Law
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