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
--This text refers to the
'A great book by, arguably, our greatest living novelist.' Irish Times -- Irish Times
'A must ... it's exquisitely written and full of love and hope.' Irish Independent
-- Irish Independent
'A tremendous entertainment ... a gorgeous patchwork of luminous anecdotes, hidden truths and necessary fictions.' Observer -- Observer
'An astonishing story, told with sadness and grace, full of gleaming images.' The Times -- The Times
'Apowerfully poetic individual epic that illuminates the history of a `country of cupboards, every one with a skeleton in it'.' Sunday Telegraph -- Sunday Telegraph