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The Secret Scripture (McNulty Family)

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  12,451 Ratings  ·  2,081 Reviews
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 H
Paperback, 320 pages
Published November 6th 2008 by Faber and Faber (first published April 2nd 2008)
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Rushabh Mehta A part of the brilliance of the book is how the book never mentions anything negative in specific, but just refers to it. For example, to indicate…moreA part of the brilliance of the book is how the book never mentions anything negative in specific, but just refers to it. For example, to indicate that the main character was about to have ... , Barry writes, "He put his leg up against mine. I did not mind that."(less)
Rushabh Mehta 1. What is the meaning of truth?
2. What is the value of life?
3. Gender, Religious relations
4. Redemption
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Community Reviews

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Sep 19, 2009 Dem rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A superbly crafted novel told in under 300 pages. A story so cleverly written that for half of the Novel I believed I was reading a non fiction account.
image: Rosanne Mc Nulty is nearing her hundredth birthday in the mental hospital where she was committed as a young woman. Finishing up his case notes before the hospital is closed psychiatrist Dr Greene finds himself intrigued by the story of his elderly patient. While Dr Green investigates, Roseanne looks back on the tragedies and passions she

Are you an honest person? Truly?

Perhaps you instinctively think “Yes”, even as you realise you are not always scrupulously so, often for the best of reasons. Often. But not always.
One can’t be totally honest all the time, can one? Can one?
What is “truth” anyway, but a social construct?!

What's wrong about her account if she sincerely believes it?
There is no factual truth.
It matters more that the person is “admirable, living, and complete” - what a curious trio of adjectives.

In a post-truth e
Petra Eggs
Apr 30, 2015 Petra Eggs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Petra Eggs by: Dolors
Sexuality in beautiful young women in backward societies is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it attracts young men, sometimes into marriage, and on the other it can seem to justify the accusation of being called a slut. And should the woman have a baby outside marriage, then the accusation if proved and the girl condemned and if punishment follows, it will be considered validated.

It's not much different today, is it? Call a girl a slut and people look at her askance. Not a nice person, not
"For history as far as I can see is not the arrangement of what happens, in sequence and in truth, but a fabulous arrangement of surmises and guesses held up as a banner against the assault of withering truth."

The Secret Scripture is a sublime work of fiction about memory and its effect on history and truth. It’s about love and loss, grief, religion and Ireland. It nearly broke my heart, but left me with a glimpse of joy and hope. It’s a slow unraveling of the mystery surrounding the reason why
Sep 07, 2009 Manny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful, poetic book about love and memory. Also pain, and loss, and how you can miss the most important thing in the world, even though it's right under your nose.

Ireland too, of course.

We're all innocent Roseanne, locked up in an asylum for decades for no reason, or because she happened to be born with the wrong religion, or because the jealous people around her find her beauty too disturbing. She never really knows why, but she manages to forgive her tormentors anyway, even the cruel Fr
Jun 04, 2015 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Secret Scriptures is a remarkable holy grail of writing.
Barry masterfully writes a poetic psychological mystery where he magically weaves a story of 2 voices: One of Roseanne McNulty, who now sits in a mental institution and has for the past 40 odd years of her 100 year life; and the other of her psychiatrist, Dr Grene, who has known her for the duration of her stay. Roseanne sits in her room as she nears the end of her life, reflecting back through the daily journal she writes and hides in
Jun 27, 2015 Kalliope rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Reading this novel I have felt as if I were peeling two onions: one yellow, one purple. First one, then the other, and back to the first and so on. My illusion was that after peeling its outer tunic and I proceeded to remove, slowly and gradually each scale leaf, I was lifting a veil and approaching the inner bud, a hidden core. The truth.

The yellow onion has less thinner and finer leaves. In their frailty and subtler delicacy of colour, they are as the veiled and vulnerable memories of an old
Diane Barnes
Apr 17, 2017 Diane Barnes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club-2017
Last month my book club read Sebastian Barry's "Days Without End", and we all loved it unconditionally. That almost never happens. So our hostess up for the April read decided to assign another of Barry's books, although she had some reservations that it might compare unfavorably to the one we thought so highly of. How can it possibly be as good, she asked?
She needn't have worried, because it was as good, but in a different way. The language was still soaring and poetic, the characters just as s
Diane S ☔
Aug 04, 2012 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Catholic Church was all powerful, a time in Ireland when religious and political factions cause almost unceasing distress and death. A young beautiful woman, a protestant woman, dares to fall in love with a Catholic but will end up spending a great part of her one-hundred years inside a psychiatric institution. Why and how did this happen?

A story written down by a very old woman, an account of the priest uncovered by Doctor Grene who is charged with discovering which of the residents, patien
I really loved this book, all of it, the prose, the content, the Irish-ness of it. The words are chosen so well that they flow smoothly in telling the story. Memory is a center of the tale as is Ireland and fate as in all Irish stories. There is love and hate, war but no real peace. There is always misunderstanding, but there are occasional attempts to move beyond this.

The ending was foreshadowed to some degree but I didn't mind that at all. Once again it fits with the fateful-ness and Irish nat
Sep 21, 2015 ❀Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m going with 5 stars since three days after finishing, I’m still thinking about how good this book was. It had me completely captivated from start to finish. The story was subtle but chilling, with many layers of tragedy and dark elements (a cemetery, rats, and a disturbing priest to name a few…not to mention the suspicion of the sanity of the main character). But the writing was beautiful and not a single word was wasted. I loved the gothic-like atmosphere that was created and how it tied in ...more
Jul 29, 2008 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jen
First, if you're going to read this, please don't read the goodreads description.

I can't say this with absolute certainty, having read none of the other novels, but considering what I've heard about the Booker shortlist I'm surprised this didn't win. I guess it's part of the Booker's recent campaign to honor what is "fresh" and "important" rather than, you know. Good.

This book didn't change my world, but it was good. It's made up mostly of recollections by its very elderly narrator, but the way
Cathrine ☯️

"Roseanne had always lived on the edges of our known world...'This is a decent place, if not home. If this were home I would go mad!'"

How gracious she is to say that when a mental institution is a kinder place than home. What exactly happened to her and who's version of the retelling can you trust? A psychological mystery weaving back and forth in time over a period of almost 90 years, I had different sensations reading this atmospheric tale. Not a long book but the pacing got a bit monotonous
Mar 30, 2017 BlackOxford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish
Innocent Betrayals

Secret Scripture is a story of betrayals - by those we love most, of them in turn by us; but particularly our betrayal of ourselves in memory and history. We betray ourselves through memories in which we both find and avoid guilt. We are innocent because we are hapless when it comes to memory. They are of us but neither reliable nor controllable by us. Memories rarely comfort. Good ones remind us of loss; bad ones evoke regret. Curiously, memories become dissociated from motive
Aug 04, 2015 Solistas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"...Εντέλει ο κόσμος είναι στ'αλήθεια θαυμάσιος κι αν ήμασταν ένα οποιοδήποτε άλλο πλάσμα και όχι άνθρωποι ίσως και να 'μασταν αδιάκοπα ευτυχείς".

Ένα υπέροχο κομψοτέχνημα είναι Η μυστική γραφή, έργο ενός μεγάλου στιλίστα και χωρίς αμφιβολία και μεγάλου συγγραφέα. Απ'αυτούς που παίρνουν μια μάλλον προβλέψιμη πλοκή και τη μετατρέπουν σε ένα μαγικό βιβλίο που έχει για πρωταγωνίστρια μια απ'τις πλέον δυνατές ηρωίδες που έχω συναντήσει τα τελευταία χρόνια στα βιβλία που επιλέγω να διαβάσω, τη φοβερή
Eva Mitnick
Dec 04, 2008 Eva Mitnick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whew, Irish literature is always so painful to read. Brutality, cruelty, pathos, religion - set against a backdrop of famine and war. The smooth-as-fine-whiskey writing and the completely beguiling character of Roseanne - a 100-year-old woman who gives us an intimate glimpse into not only her tumultuous history but also her inner girlish self - kept me reading, even when I didn't want to know what bad thing would happen next. Dr. Grene is more down-to-earth, but he has his own contemplative side ...more
Oct 10, 2016 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sligo made me and Sligo undid me, but then I should have given up much sooner than I did being made or undone by human towns, and looked to myself alone. The terror and hurt in my story happened because when I was young I thought others were the author of my fortune or misfortune; I did not know that a person could hold up a wall made of imaginary bricks and mortar against the horrors and cruel, dark tricks of time that assail us, and be the author therefore of themselves.


My father's happin
Sep 15, 2011 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author slowly weaves together two heart-wrenching and tragic versions of the life of Roseanne McNulty, a 100-year old woman residing (for much of her adult life) in a psychiatric asylum. The first version is Roseanne’s own elusive and often unreliable past recollection, recorded in her secret journal, hidden in the floorboards of her room. Another version is slowly revealed by her psychiatrist; Dr. Grene, as he investigates her sketchy past records and evaluates her suitability for release i ...more
Connie (Ava Catherine)
Sebastian Barry is an Irish author who writes with lyricism that makes his prose sing. Reading a book by Barry is a sheer joy.

Confined to an Irish mental institution as a young woman for social reasons, the reader meets Roseane Cleary McNulty as an old woman writing her life story in a journal, which she hides under the floor in her room in the same mental institution. She has been a resident in the asylum for so long that no one knows why she was committed or how old she really is. The "secret
3.5, actually.

There's something extraordinary about The Secret Scripture. It's not the touching, if a bit predictable and far-fetched storyline, nor the fact that it's set in rural Ireland which is fascinating to say the least. What's extraordinary about Barry's novel is the lyrical, often poetic even, prose which makes such a beguiling match with the aforementioned setting, that the storyline becomes a secondary matter.

That's not to say the story is bad, mind you. Quite the contrary. It's touc
Mar 19, 2013 Dolors rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
A slow but compelling thriller which covers the mysterious circumstances of an interned patient in a mental hospital in rural 40s Ireland.
The supposedly "disturbed" character, Roseanne, now a hundred years old, and who has been interned for more than 50 years, is writing a secret journal in which she tells, little by little, the real story of her life.
It's a sad but smartly and touching account of an extremely beautiful young woman who is cheated by the social system of her time. A society that
Aug 21, 2012 Britany rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Really wanted to like this one-- the summary sounded like something I would fall right into-- but alas, I trudged, slugged, and finally finished this book. Disappointed that I never connected to the characters or the story at all, surprised to find myself at this end of the spectrum when so many others enjoyed this one.

Roseanne Clear has been living in Roscommon- a mental facility for the past 80 some odd years. Roscommon is being demolished and Dr. Grene is tasked with figuring out which patien
Apr 14, 2010 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's something about this book I didn't love as much as I did its sort-of-prequel The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty. But still I liked this one a lot, the way the slow beginning sets the scene for the wonderful middle sections. I felt disappointed by the later sections, though I thought the last line of the book was absolutely perfect.

Perhaps it's simply the absence of Roseanne's voice later on that I missed, though it's not that I disliked the other narrator -- I just liked Roseanne so much
Aug 26, 2012 ☮Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, read-in-2015
Wavering between 4 and 5 stars here. I loved this book and I am certain I would have loved it even more with a printed page in front of me rather than an MP3 version, where what tried to be an Irish accent sorely failed in my opinion.

There is a big twist at the end, which of course raised it up a full rating point for me. I think that twist answered so many questions, yet I still have many and am certain again that I would find those answers on the printed page.

It is a beautiful, sad story tha
“The world begins anew with every birth, my father used to say. He forgot to say, with every death it ends. Or did not think he needed to. Because for a goodly part of his life he worked in a graveyard.”

So begins Sebastian Barry’s saga of a woman and history of a land that is known for its myths and vibrant story telling. I am not usually a person who notices first lines. I know it is blasphemy in the world of readers and reading but very few first lines make me want to quote them. This is
Skorofido Skorofido
Ένα από τα πολλά απωθημένα που έχω είναι να πάω στην Ιρλανδία… να πιω τις Guiness μου, να τραγουδήσω ιρλανδέζικα τραγούδια (λέμε τώρα…), να ξημεροβραδιαστώ στα bars… από την άλλη βέβαια, δεν έχω ιδέα του τι εστί Ιρλανδία, πέρα από το γεγονός πως έχει μια πρωτεύουσα που τη λένε Δουβλίνο (κατά το έχω μια αδελφή τη λένε Βόρειο Ήπειρο την αγαπώ πολύ…) κι ότι υπάρχει και μια οργάνωση εκεί (δεν παίρνω όρκο πως είναι και τα καλύτερα παιδιά) ο ΙΡΑ…
Η παντελής άγνοια μου περί ιρλανδικής ιστορίας και κοινω
Viv JM
Roseanne McNulty is a 100 year old patient at the Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital. The hospital is due to be closed down and psychiatrist Dr Grene is charged with assessing Roseanne and determining why she was committed and whether she should be able to return to the community. Through the journals of both Roseanne and Dr Grene, we come to learn more about her history, which is entangled with the troubled history of Ireland and of the Catholic Church. A friendship develops between the doctor ...more
Jan 30, 2009 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My goodreads account shall not be a five-star fund, at least not without some explanation...
I began this book weary of the two narrators: a centennarian who has spent the last half century in a mental hospital; and her sixty-five-year old doctor. Alas, they are malleable and one need not worry about being bogged down in their unsavoury minutiae. At times, however, it is difficult to buy these two characters as authentic narrators of the sections alternately titled "Roseanne's Testimony or Hersel
Ena Hasečić
May 17, 2016 Ena Hasečić rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
Prije par mjeseci je u Zagrebu održan Zagreb book fest. Na njemu su predstavljeni irski pisci i romani koji se bave ljudima te male države, a između ostalih i ovaj roman. Tada mi je zapao za oko, a ubrzo nakon toga je došao u moje ruke. Osvojio je nagradu Costa za najbolju knjigu 2008., pa sam ga tako progurala preko reda i odmah uzela na čitanje. Goodreads kaže da sam ga čitala preko 10 dana, što je za mene prilično dugo...

Roman prati stogodišnju Roseane koja je većinu svog života provela u sta
Νίκος Βλαχάκης
Η ατομική τραγωδία απέναντι στην τραγωδία ενός ολόκληρου λαού με φόντο δύο μεγάλους πολέμους, έναν εμφύλιο και μερικές από τις σημαντικότερες εξεγέρσεις του 19ου αιώνα στην Ευρώπη. Στους ταξικούς πολέμους οι φτωχοί δεν έχουν δικαίωμα στην ευτυχία. Στους ιμπεριαλιστικούς πολέμους οι περήφανοι λαοί γίνονται θυσία στο τέρας. Και εν καιρώ ειρήνης οι βρωμεροί εκπρόσωποι της εκκλησίας είναι ικανοί για τα πιο ειδεχθή εγκλήματα. Η χαρά της ζωής και της νιότης το ύψιστο αμάρτημα. Στον τρέχοντα αιώνα η ομ ...more
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Sebastian Barry is an Irish playwright, novelist and poet. He is noted for his dense literary writing style and is considered one of Ireland's finest writers

Barry's literary career began in poetry before he began writing plays and novels. In recent years his fiction writing has surpassed his work in the theatre in terms of success, having once been considered a playwright who wrote occasional nove
More about Sebastian Barry...

Other Books in the Series

McNulty Family (4 books)
  • The Only True History of Lizzie Finn/the Steward of Christendom/White Woman Street: Three Plays (Methuen Modern Plays)
  • The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty
  • The Temporary Gentleman

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“Because it strikes me there is something greater than judgement. I think it is called mercy.” 96 likes
“After all the world is indeed beautiful and if we were any other creature than man we might be continuously happy in it.” 93 likes
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