John's Reviews > The Secret Scripture

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
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's review
Jun 05, 13

Read in November, 2010

Roseanne McNulty is approaching 100 years old and has lived most of her adult life in an insane asylum. Dr. Grene is Roseanne's psychiatist and tasked with assessing whether Roseanne is able to be returned to 'normal' society since the asylum is being demolished and there is not enough room for all of the patients that have to be relocated. Set in Ireland, the story is based on 2 journals, or 'Secret Scriptures'. One is written by Roseanne in an attempt to chronicle her life, and the other is written by Dr. Grene who has taken a keen interest in Roseanne. As Roseanne documents the memories of her life as a child and young adult in the early 1900's, the reader experiences the turmoil and unrest in Ireland and the impact of the Catholic church during these times. Roseanne, a Protestant, marries Tom McNulty, a Catholic and is never accepted by his mother. Meanwhile, as Dr. Grene develops his journal, he uncovers documents that tell a different story about Roseanne's life than what her memories reveal.

As I read this intriguing novel, I was at times perplexed by the ramblings of Roseanne as she tried to capture her fleeting memories but I had to remind myself that she was nearly 100 years old and should be entitled to her ramblings as they were her way of trying to set the story straight so to speak.

As the storyline developed, my interest continued to increase as I was curious to know which version of the story had more truth, Roseanne's or Dr. Grene's. Or, perhaps, a combination of the two stories?

There is a twist at the end that I absolutely did not see coming so I was left totally satisfied with this novel.

Certainly, not a 'light read' based on the subject matter but 'The Secret Scripture' is a book that I would recommend for those who are interested in learning more about Ireland during it's rebellious years and for those who enjoy mysteries with surprise endings.
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