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The Secret Scripture

A book by Sebastian Barry

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A novel set in Ireland - Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture

  • Jul 7, 2011
Rating:
+4
Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture is the story of Roseanne McNulty, who at around 100 years old has been living in a psychiatric hospital for most of her life. It may not sound like the promising start to a novel, but as Roseanne begins to write down the story of her life, we are soon drawn into the fascinating world of 20's and 30's rural Ireland, a time of civil war and the Irish Free State.
 
Roseanne's upbringing in the Coastal town of Sligo in Ireland's west is one of poverty and sadness, yet Barry's stunning prose leaves you lingering over his words, no matter how distressing the scene. 
 
From the very beginning a great sense of loss permeates this novel. We do not know why Roseanne is in the institution, so as she tells us of her childhood and youth, we are just waiting to discover what set of circumstances could possibly result in her being locked away.
 
It is not all bleak, there are glimpses of sunshine in Roseanne's life, and we desperately want them to last, but still there is our knowledge of her fate, so we can never relax, knowing the happiness she finds must somehow come to an end.
 
When it does, I found myself reacting with anger at how easy it was for a woman's destiny to be decided by others at that time in a country where the influence of the church was all encompassing. In truth, Roseanne has no say over her own future, she is at the mercy of the men who surround her, the attitudes of the society in which she lives and the will of the church and its agents. For those of us living in the West in the 20th century it is a reminder of how much things have changed for many of us, but also how this is still the case for women in many countries around the world.
 
I enjoyed learning something of the history of Ireland with this novel. When we think of the Ireland of today, it is easy to forget the brutal civil war that took place less than a hundred years ago. This was a time when people were judged not just by their own politics and allegiances, but also those of their families and friends. It was a time of survival and betrayal, themes which permeate the novel. The Irish Free State existed between 1922 and 1937, and was then succeeded by the modern state of Ireland. Through Barry's novel we learn how divisive this time was, giving us an insight into the political tensions that existed.
 
There were some wonderful descriptions of the landscape and character of rural Ireland. At times, it is overwhelmingly dismal "as it was raining with that special Sligo rain that has made bogland of a thousand ancient farms" (p96) while at others we can feel the wonders of living by the ocean. "Oh yes, the beach at Strandhill, high tide as it was, is good for a little, and then it plunges down, you are suddenly in the big water of the bay there" (p150).

I loved this book. While some found its ending a little too convenient, I was prepared to suspend my disbelief in honour of such a beautifully told story, if you are looking for a gentle, moving novel set in Ireland, this is a perfect choice.
I loved this book. While some found its ending a little too convenient, I was prepared to suspend my disbelief in honour of such a beautifully told story, if you are looking for a gentle, moving novel set in Ireland, this is a perfect choice.SebastianggBarry'sSebastianSebastianfffhh Barry'sbb The Secret Scripture is the story of Roseanne McNulty, who at around 100 years old has been living in a psychiatric hospital for most of her life. It may not sound like the promising start to a novel, but as Roseanne begins to write down the story of her life, we are soon drawn into the fascinating world of 20's and 30's rural Ireland, a time of civil war and the Irish Free State.
 
Roseanne's upbringing in the Coastal town of Sligo in Ireland's west is one of poverty and sadness, yet Barry's stunning prose leaves you lingering over his words, no matter how distressing the scene. 
 
From the very beginning a great sense of loss permeates this novel. We do not know why Roseanne is in the institution, so as she tells us of her childhood and youth, we are just waiting to discover what set of circumstances could possibly result in her being locked away.
 
It is not all bleak, there are glimpses of sunshine in Roseanne's life, and we desperately want them to last, but still there is our knowledge of her fate, so we can never relax, knowing the happiness she finds must somehow come to an end.
 
When it does, I found myself reacting with anger at how easy it was for a woman's destiny to be decided by others at that time in a country where the influence of the church was all encompassing. In truth, Roseanne has no say over her own future, she is at the mercy of the men who surround her, the attitudes of the society in which she lives and the will of the church and its agents. For those of us living in the West in the 20th century it is a reminder of how much things have changed for many of us, but also how this is still the case for women in many countries around the world.
 
I enjoyed learning something of the history of Ireland with this novel. When we think of the Ireland of today, it is easy to forget the brutal civil war that took place less than a hundred years ago. This was a time when people were judged not just by their own politics and allegiances, but also those of their families and friends. It was a time of survival and betrayal, themes which permeate the novel. The Irish Free State existed between 1922 and 1937, and was then succeeded by the modern state of Ireland. Through Barry's novel we learn how divisive this time was, giving us an insight into the political tensions that existed.
 
There were some wonderful descriptions of the landscape and character of rural Ireland. At times, it is overwhelmingly dismal "as it was raining with that special Sligo rain that has made bogland of a thousand ancient farms" (p96) while at others we can feel the wonders of living by the ocean. "Oh yes, the beach at Strandhill, high tide as it was, is good for a little, and then it plunges down, you are suddenly in the big water of the bay there" (p150).
 
I loved this book. While some found its ending a little too convenient, I was prepared to suspend my disbelief in honour of such a beautifully told story, if you are looking for a gentle, moving novel set in Ireland, this is a perfect choice. Barry'sSebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture is the story of Roseanne McNulty, who at around 100 years old has been living in a psychiatric hospital for most of her life. It may not sound like the promising start to a novel, but as Roseanne begins to write down the story of her life, we are soon drawn into the fascinating world of 20's and 30's rural Ireland, a time of civil war and the Irish Free State.
 
Roseanne's upbringing in the Coastal town of Sligo in Ireland's west is one of poverty and sadness, yet Barry's stunning prose leaves you lingering over his words, no matter how distressing the scene. 
 
From the very beginning a great sense of loss permeates this novel. We do not know why Roseanne is in the institution, so as she tells us of her childhood and youth, we are just waiting to discover what set of circumstances could possibly result in her being locked away.
 
It is not all bleak, there are glimpses of sunshine in Roseanne's life, and we desperately want them to last, but still there is our knowledge of her fate, so we can never relax, knowing the happiness she finds must somehow come to an end.
 
When it does, I found myself reacting with anger at how easy it was for a woman's destiny to be decided by others at that time in a country where the influence of the church was all encompassing. In truth, Roseanne has no say over her own future, she is at the mercy of the men who surround her, the attitudes of the society in which she lives and the will of the church and its agents. For those of us living in the West in the 20th century it is a reminder of how much things have changed for many of us, but also how this is still the case for women in many countries around the world.
 
I enjoyed learning soSebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture is the story of Roseanne McNulty, who at around 100 years old has been living in a psychiatric hospital for most of her life. It may not sound like the promising start to a novel, but as Roseanne begins to write down the story of her life, we are soon drawn into the fascinating world of 20's and 30's rural Ireland, a time of civil war and the Irish Free State.
 
Roseanne's upbringing in the Coastal town of Sligo in Ireland's west is one of poverty and sadness, yet Barry's stunning prose leaves you lingering over his words, no matter how distressing the scene. 
 
From the very beginning a great sense of loss permeates this novel. We do not know why Roseanne is in the institution, so as she tells us of her childhood and youth, we are just waiting to discover what set of circumstances could possibly result in her being locked away.
 
It is not all bleak, there are glimpses of sunshine in Roseanne's life, and we desperately want them to last, but still there is our knowledge of her fate, so we can never relax, knowing the happiness she finds must somehow come to an end.
 
When it does, I found myself reacting with anger at how easy it was for a woman's destiny to be decided by others at that time in a country where the influence of the church was all encompassing. In truth, Roseanne has no say over her own future, she is at the mercy of the men who surround her, the attitudes of the society in which she lives and the will of the church and its agents. For those of us living in the West in the 20th century it is a reminder of how much things have changed for many of us, but also how this is still the case for women in many countries around the world.
 
I enjoyed learning something of the history of Ireland with this novel. When we think of the Ireland of today, it is easy to forget the brutal civil war that took place less than a hundred years ago. This was a time when people were judged not just by their own politics and allegiances, but also those of their families and friends. It was a time of survival and betrayal, themes which permeate the novel. The Irish Free State existed between 1922 and 1937, and was then succeeded by the modern state of Ireland. Through Barry's novel we learn how divisive this time was, giving us an insight into the political tensions that existed.
 
There were some wonderful descriptions of the landscape and character of rural Ireland. At times, it is overwhelmingly dismal "as it was raining with that special Sligo rain that has made bogland of a thousand ancient farms" (p96) while at others we can feel the wonders of living by the ocean. "Oh yes, the beach at Strandhill, high tide as it was, is good for a little, and then it plunges down, you are suddenly in the big water of the bay there" (p150).
 
I loved this book. While some found its ending a little too convenient, I was prepared to suspend my disbelief in honour of such a beautifully told story, if you are looking for a gentle, moving novel set in Ireland, this is a perfect choice.mething of the history of Ireland with this novel. When we think of the Ireland of today, it is easy to forget the brutal civil war that took place less than a hundred years ago. This was a time when people were judged not just by their own politics and allegiances, but also those of their families and friends. It was a time of survival and betrayal, themes which permeate the novel. The Irish Free State existed between 1922 and 1937, and was then succeeded by the modern state of Ireland. Through Barry's novel we learn how divisive this time was, giving us an insight into the political tensions that existed.
 
There were some wonderful descriptions of the landscape and character of rural Ireland. At times, it is overwhelmingly dismal "as it was raining with that special Sligo rain that has made bogland of a thousand ancient farms" (p96) while at others we can feel the wonders of living by the ocean. "Oh yes, the beach at Strandhill, high tide as it was, is good for a little, and then it plunges down, you are suddenly in the big water of the bay there" (p150).
 
I loved this book. While some found its ending a little too convenient, I was prepared to suspend my disbelief in honour of such a beautifully told story, if you are looking for a gentle, moving novel set in Ireland, this is a perfect choice. The Secret Scripture is the story of Roseanne McNulty, who at around 100 years old has been living in a psychiatric hospital for most of her life. It may not sound like the promising start to a novel, but as Roseanne begins to write down the story of her life, we are soon drawn into the fascinating world of 20's and 30's rural Ireland, a time of civil war and the Irish Free State.
 
Roseanne's upbringing in the Coastal town of Sligo in Ireland's west is one of poverty and sadness, yet Barry's stunning prose leaves you lingering over his words, no matter how distressing the scene. 
 
From the very beginning a great sense of loss permeates this novel. We do not know why Roseanne is in the institution, so as she tells us of her childhood and youth, we are just waiting to discover what set of circumstances could possibly result in her being locked away.
 
It is not all bleak, there are glimpses of sunshine in Roseanne's life, and we desperately want them to last, but still there is our knowledge of her fate, so we can never relax, knowing the happiness she finds must somehow come to an end.
 
When it does, I found myself reacting with anger at how easy it was for a woman's destiny to be decided by others at that time in a country where the influence of the church was all encompassing. In truth, Roseanne has no say over her own future, she is at the mercy of the men who surround her, the attitudes of the society in which she lives and the will of the church and its agents. For those of us living in the West in the 20th century it is a reminder of how much things have changed for many of us, but also how this is still the case for women in many countries around the world.
 
I enjoyed learning something of the history of Ireland with this novel. When we think of the Ireland of today, it is easy to forget the brutal civil war that took place less than a hundred years ago. This was a time when people were judged not just by their own politics and allegiances, but also those of their families and friends. It was a time of survival and betrayal, themes which permeate the novel. The Irish Free State existed between 1922 and 1937, and was then succeeded by the modern state of Ireland. Through Barry's novel we learn how divisive this time was, giving us an insight into the political tensions that existed.
 
There were some wonderful descriptions of the landscape and character of rural Ireland. At times, it is overwhelmingly dismal "as it was raining with that special Sligo rain that has made bogland of a thousand ancient farms" (p96) while at others we can feel the wonders of living by the ocean. "Oh yes, the beach at Strandhill, high tide as it was, is good for a little, and then it plunges down, you are suddenly in the big water of the bay there" (p150).
 
I loved this book. While some found its ending a little too convenient, I was prepared to suspend my disbelief in honour of such a beautifully told story, if you are looking for a gentle, moving novel set in Ireland, this is a perfect choice. The Secret Scripture is the story of Roseanne McNulty, who at around 100 years old has been living in a psychiatric hospital for most of her life. It may not sound like the promising start to a novel, but as Roseanne begins to write down the story of her life, we are soon drawn into the fascinating world of 20's and 30's rural Ireland, a time of civil war and the Irish Free State.
 
Roseanne's upbringing in the Coastal town of Sligo in Ireland's west is one of poverty and sadness, yet Barry's stunning prose leaves you lingering over his words, no matter how distressing the scene. 
 
From the very beginning a great sense of loss permeates this novel. We do not know why Roseanne is in the institution, so as she tells us of her childhood and youth, we are just waiting to discover what set of circumstances could possibly result in her being locked away.
 
It is not all bleak, there are glimpses of sunshine in Roseanne's life, and we desperately want them to last, but still there is our knowledge of her fate, so we can never relax, knowing the happiness she finds must somehow come to an end.
 
When it does, I found myself reacting with anger at how easy it was for a woman's destiny to be decided by others at that time in a country where the influence of the church was all encompassing. In truth, Roseanne has no say over her own future, she is at the mercy of the men who surround her, the attitudes of the society in which she lives and the will of the church and its agents. For those of us living in the West in the 20th century it is a reminder of how much things have changed for many of us, but also how this is still the case for women in many countries around the world.
 
I enjoyed learning something of the history of Ireland with this novel. When we think of the Ireland of today, it is easy to forget the brutal civil war that took place less than a hundred years ago. This was a time when people were judged not just by their own politics and allegiances, but also those of their families and friends. It was a time of survival and betrayal, themes which permeate the novel. The Irish Free State existed between 1922 and 1937, and was then succeeded by the modern state of Ireland. Through Barry's novel we learn how divisive this time was, giving us an insight into the political tensions that existed.
 
There were some wonderful descriptions of the landscape and character of rural Ireland. At times, it is overwhelmingly dismal "as it was raining with that special Sligo rain that has made bogland of a thousand ancient farms" (p96) while at others we can feel the wonders of living by the ocean. "Oh yes, the beach at Strandhill, high tide as it was, is good for a little, and then it plunges down, you are suddenly in the big water of the bay there" (p150).
 
I loved this book. While some found its ending a little too convenient, I was prepared to suspend my disbelief in honour of such a beautifully told story, if you are looking for a gentle, moving novel set in Ireland, this is a perfect choice. 
A novel set in Ireland - Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture

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More The Secret Scripture reviews
review by . December 09, 2009
Continuing the fictional elaborations of his own family's facts, Barry tells of Irish repression movingly in this densely written but often poetic novel. Following "The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty," Roseanne Clear McNulty enters the saga around the same time, the Irish Civil War following partial independence in the early 1920s. After a tragic event in Sligo town during the internecine war brings unwarranted scorn upon her Presbyterian father, Roseanne must grow up isolated from defenders, increasingly …
review by . November 24, 2008
The Secret Scriptures
In his distinctly Irish novel, set in County Sligo and Roscommon, a mental institution, a perhaps century old woman, Roseanne Cleary McNulty, pens a diary of her long life, which she hides in her room under the floorboards. Retrieving the notebook only when it's safe, Roseanne reveals a deeply loving relationship with a father who dies far too young and a mother who withdraws over time into the solitude of a troubled mind. Presbyterians, the Cleary's are an anomaly in Catholic Sligo, Joe Cleary …
review by . July 04, 2008
In his distinctly Irish novel, set in County Sligo and Roscommon, a mental institution, a perhaps century old woman, Roseanne Cleary McNulty, pens a diary of her long life, which she hides in her room under the floorboards. Retrieving the notebook only when it's safe, Roseanne reveals a deeply loving relationship with a father who dies far too young and a mother who withdraws over time into the solitude of a troubled mind. Presbyterians, the Cleary's are an anomaly in Catholic Sligo, Joe Cleary …
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The latest from Barry (whoseA Long Waywas shortlisted for the 2005 Booker) pits two contradictory narratives against each other in an attempt to solve the mystery of a 100-year-old mental patient. That patient, Roseanne McNulty, decides to undertake an autobiography and writes of an ill-fated childhood spent with her father, Joe Clear. A cemetery superintendent, Joe is drawn into Ireland's 1922 civil war when a group of irregulars brings a slain comrade to the cemetery and are discovered by a division of Free-Staters. Meanwhile, Roseanne's psychiatrist, Dr. Grene, investigating Roseanne's original commitment in preparation for her transfer to a new hospital, discovers through the papers of the local parish priest, Fr. Gaunt, that Roseanne's father was actually a police sergeant in the Royal Irish Constabulary. The mysteries multiply when Roseanne reveals that Fr. Gaunt annulled her marriage after glimpsing her in the company of another man; Gaunt's official charge was nymphomania, and the cumulative fallout led to a string of tragedies. Written in captivating, lyrical prose, Barry's novel is both a sparkling literary puzzle and a stark cautionary tale of corrupted power.(June)
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Details

ISBN-10: 0670019402
ISBN-13: 978-0670019403
Author: Sebastian Barry
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Viking Adult
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