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The Secret Scripture (McNulty Family)

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  14,633 Ratings  ·  2,377 Reviews
Nearing her one-hundredth birthday, Roseanne McNulty faces an uncertain future, as the Roscommon Regional Mental hospital where she's spent the best part of her adult life prepares for closure. Over the weeks leading up to this upheaval, she talks often with her psychiatrist Dr Grene, and their relationship intensifies and complicates.

Told through their respective journals
...more
Hardcover, 300 pages
Published May 1st 2008 by Faber and Faber (first published April 2nd 2008)
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Julie
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
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)

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Dem
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
...more
Candi
"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
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Cecily


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
...more
Petra X
Apr 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Petra X 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 is 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
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Cheri

Fare thee well sweet Anna Liffy
I can no longer stay
And watch me new glass cages
that spring up along me Ouay
My mind's too full of memories
too old to hear new chimes
l'm a part of what was Dublin
in the rare ould times.

--“Dublin in the Rare Ould Times,” Dublin City Ramblers, Songwriters: Pete St. John for the Dublin City Ramblers


”Roseanne’s Testimony of Herself

“(Patient, Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital, 1957 - )”


“The world begins anew with every birth, my father used to say. He forgot
...more
Manny
Sep 07, 2009 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
...more
Debra
Dec 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Rose McNultry is almost 100 years old. For most of her life she has been a patient in Roscommon Mental hospital in rural west Ireland. This "mad" woman has lived here most of her adult life. The hospital is going to be shut down and she is facing a scary future of being moved from where she has lived most of her life. She has frequent talks with her therapist/psychiatrist in the weeks leading up to the hospital's closure. Her therapists job is to determine what to do with the patients left behin ...more
Jen
Jun 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
BlackOxford
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Diane Barnes
Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Kalliope
Jun 27, 2015 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
...more
Annet
Feb 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A gem of a book, beautiful story, beautifully written. I recommend this one to my friends!
Lori
May 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I expected to love this book because I loved Days Without End. This is a radical change of pace. Mostly it made me angry. Not that there's anything wrong with the writing. It's a bit like exploring a forgotten or secret garden full of shy beauty if take the time to look.

Based on news stories of the time and place, this is oddly a happy ending version of so many women's stories.

*********************************************
https://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/25/wo...
ttps://www.theguardian.com/world/
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Diane S ☔
Aug 04, 2012 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
...more
Sue
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
...more
❀Julie
Sep 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Carol
Sep 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Paula Kalin
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Irish literature fans, literary fans
Recommended to Paula by: Carol
I was first introduced to Sebastian Barry with Days Without End published in 2016 and winner of the Costa Book Award and a Booker nominee. Days Without End hit me like a ton of bricks...so fabulously written and such a tale. Did I ever imagine that another of his books could become so beloved? Well the Secret Scripture has. But it also made me REAL ANGRY.

Set after the Irish Civil War, Roseanne Clear McNulty is about to turn 100 years old and wants to tell her story. Roseanne has spent most of he
...more
Kate
Jul 29, 2008 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
...more
Cathrine ☯️
4★

"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
...more
Dolors
Mar 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Julie
Oct 10, 2016 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
...more
Eva Mitnick
Dec 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Chrissie
Feb 04, 2009 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book while I was reading it; emotions and ideas are wonderfully expressed. I am saying I loved the writing.

Then came the end! I had been warned that it was bad, but the ending is so terribly bad that it is hard to imagine a worse ending. It is so improbable! Not just in one respect, but in absolutely everything that is left to be resolved. It just wrecks the whole story. The only good point is that the ending is pretty quick; it doesn't take up too many pages of the novel.

Otherwi
...more
Britany
Aug 21, 2012 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
...more
Solistas
Aug 04, 2015 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
...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
...more
Hilary
Jun 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
I really struggled to continue with this book, so many friends rated it highly I kept on, thinking I would get into it eventually but I didn't. I didn't like the way the memories wafted in and out of present day, and apart from the sad and heartbreaking experience that the main character went through I felt that not much happened. Lots of people seem to rate this book highly so perhaps this just wasn't for me or I wasn't in the right frame of mind for this.
Teresa
Apr 14, 2010 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
...more
Barbara
I "reread" this via audiobook. This is an excellent way to read this book as the story is primarily narration by Roseanne Clear and Dr. William Grene, psychiatrist at the Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital. Roseanne's story takes the entire book to be revealed, and is full of personal and family secrets. The reason for Roseanne confinement is one of those secrets or mysteries. This was the era when women were confined to mental hospitals and Magdelene laundries for their "sins", often the sin of ...more
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784 followers
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
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.” 110 likes
“After all the world is indeed beautiful and if we were any other creature than man we might be continuously happy in it.” 101 likes
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