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G. R. Chew

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The Secret Scripture
The Secret Scripture
by Sebastian Barry
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's about the Journey, Not the Destination., 2 Jan. 2010
This review is from: The Secret Scripture (Paperback)
Roseanne, a patient of Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital, 1957-present, nearing her hundredth birthday, decides to create a testimony to herself documenting the tragic trials and tribulations of her previous life.

Dr Grene is Roseanne's psychiatrist who, in light of the impending demolition of the hospital, must delve into her past and decide if Roseanne is eligible for release, but finds that he is strangely drawn to her story.

Written as two juxtaposing journals of the aforementioned characters, Sebastian Barry unearths a tale of loss, betrayal and explores issues of social outcast and political upheaval in Ireland in the 1920s - 1930s. One of the strongest aspects of the novel is Barry's ability to skilfully create strong characterisation as Roseanne's story artfully unravels, with tales of her past intriguing the reader. As Roseanne's story unfolds we are told of many memories, countless of which are heartbreaking, but the questionable reliability of Roseanne's testimony merely leaves us wanting more.

This book is a must read, but be sure you can cope with an emotional rollercoaster of desperation, despair and failed hopes. Although, at some points the novel is perhaps unnecessarily crass for some, this is largely outweighed by Barry's ability to write beautiful prose and brilliantly descriptive phrases, with imagery that is sure to keep a lasting picture in your mind.

However, the downfall of this novel is perhaps the ending which can be seen as predictable and far-fetched. The enjoyment of the read comes from the strength of the plot. Regrettably, the ending is not the perfect resolution, leaving the reader feeling somewhat deflated and let down. The books strength relies heavily on the way Barry writes engrossingly beautiful prose based on the wreckage of these characters lives, which is a real treat for avid readers. Ultimately, the enjoyment will come from the reader's journey of this novel and not the ending revelations.

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