Synopses & Reviews
A gorgeous new novel from the author of the Man Booker finalist A Long Long Way
As a young woman, Roseanne McNulty was one of the most beautiful and beguiling girls in County Sligo, Ireland. Now, as her hundredth year draws near, she is a patient at Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital, and she decides to record the events of her life.
As Roseanne revisits her past, hiding the manuscript beneath the floorboards in her bedroom, she learns that Roscommon Hospital will be closed in a few months and that her caregiver, Dr. Grene, has been asked to evaluate the patients and decide if they can return to society. Roseanne is of particular interest to Dr. Grene, and as he researches her case he discovers a document written by a local priest that tells a very different story of Roseanne's life than what she recalls. As doctor and patient attempt to understand each other, they begin to uncover long-buried secrets about themselves.
Set against an Ireland besieged by conflict, The Secret Scripture is an epic story of love, betrayal, and unavoidable tragedy, and a vivid reminder of the stranglehold that the Catholic Church had on individual lives for much of the twentieth century.
"The latest from Barry (whose A Long Way was 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)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[T]he most exhilarating prose stylist in Irish fiction — which just about makes him, by definition, the best prose writer in the English language....The Secret Scripture fits seamlessly into a vision that seeks to restore with language that which has been taken away by history." Allen Barra, Salon.com
"Barry beautifully braids together the convoluted threads of his narrative." Kirkus Reviews
"Acclaimed author Sebastian Barry has written an elegant and intelligent novel of love, murder, betrayal and sacrifice. It's a thought-provoking look at the destructive power of well-intentioned people to destroy lives and the redemptive power of truth to heal, no matter how long it takes." BookReporter.com
"This is a powerful story, and Barry tells it compellingly....Many versions of Roseanne's life are presented in The Secret Scripture, and the reader is given the pleasure and the challenge of unwinding this complex and beautiful skein." Hartford Courant
These lives are reimagined in language of surpassing beauty. Above all it is the surpassing quality of Mr. Barrys language that gives it its power . . . 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 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.
Dinitia Smith, NY Times Daily Book Review
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, The Boston Globe
Luminous and lyrical.
Pam Houston, O Magazine
Id nominate Sebastian Barry, the most exhilarating prose stylist in Irish fictionwhich just about makes him, by definition, the best prose writer in the English language . . . Barry has shown a dazzling facility with poetry, drama and fictionhis 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 Barrys 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, Salon.com
" [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
Set against an Ireland besieged by conflict, The Secret Scripture is an epic story of love, betrayal, and unavoidable tragedy, and a vivid reminder of the stranglehold that the Catholic Church had on individual lives for much of the 20th century.
An epic story of family, love, and unavoidable tragedy from the two-time Man Booker Prize finalist
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.
Soon to be a film starring Jessica Chastain and Vanessa Redgrave.
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), 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.