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The Secret Scripture

(McNulty Family)

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  18,249 ratings  ·  2,767 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
Hardcover, 300 pages
Published May 1st 2008 by Faber and Faber (first published April 2nd 2008)
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Popular Answered Questions
Rushabh Mehta 1. What is the meaning of truth?
2. What is the value of life?
3. Gender, Religious relations
4. Redemption…more
1. What is the meaning of truth?
2. What is the value of life?
3. Gender, Religious relations
4. Redemption(less)
Carol Friel The book certainly presents various characteristics - unpleasant ones - that may be typical of the Irish at a certain period of time (the 20th century…moreThe book certainly presents various characteristics - unpleasant ones - that may be typical of the Irish at a certain period of time (the 20th century).
I would not call Roseanne an allegory of Ireland but would call her a representative of those who have suffered from the prejudice and judgmentalism that have been somewhat rampant in Irish history and the Irish character.(less)

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Average rating 3.81  · 
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Petra X has permanently sun-burned eyes
Apr 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Petra X has permanently sun-burned eyes 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
"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
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
Diane Barnes
Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: motley-crew
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

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

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 forgo
A gem of a book, beautiful story, beautifully written. I recommend this one to my friends!
Dec 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorite-books
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
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
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 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
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
Violet wells
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"History, as far as I can see, is not the arrangement of what happens, but a fabulous arrangement of surmises and guesses held up as a banner against the assault of withering truth."

People often speculate on how history might be told had the voices of women not been silenced. Barry here gives us the written testament of a Presbyterian working class woman who has reached her hundredth year and has been incarcerated in an asylum for decades. The Irish troubles are never overtly centre stage but t
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
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
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.

Elyse  Walters
Apr 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“History as far as I can see, it’s not the arrangement of what happens, but a fabulous arrangement of surmises and guesses held up as a banner against the assault of the withering truth”.

A deeply emotional heartbreaking story....
My heart was aching!
Painfully sad!

Love, loss, loneliness, victimized injustice, betrayal, prejudice, Catholic Church repression.....
tragedy....upon tragedy!!

This story with it’s surprising ending won’t be easy to shake. I couldn’t be the only reader who felt anger -
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
Andy Marr
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really wish Goodreads offered the chance to award half-stars. This was my second Sebastian Barry novel, after Days Without End, which I read back in 2018. While TSS wasn't quite poor enough to gain three stars, DWE wasn't good enough to gain five, and so, despite enjoying one far less than the other, both get four stars. It hardly seems fair, really.

Incidentally, this would have earned the full four stars if I hadn't guessed the 'surprise twist' at precisely the 31% mark (this despite the fact
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
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 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
Jul 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jen
Shelves: own, fiction, post-2000, gift
First, if you're going to read this, please don't read the goodreads description.

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 it uses (perhaps unreliable) memory isn't like, say, Ishiguro, who uses gradual revelations to turn a story on its head. There are surprises (or not, if you are the sort of person who guesses everything before you're told), but the surprises aren't supposed to make you think you've been h
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
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 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star-books
It is hard to resist a secret and harder yet when it is as masterfully unraveled as this one. Sebastian Barry tells an absorbing story about a 100-year-old woman and the secrets that installed her for many wretched decades in a mental hospital. The “terror and hurt” in Roseanne McNulty’s story has a monstrosity that seems inevitable in the historical landscape of Ireland in the 1920s and 1930s. Roseanne is powerless against harsh political realities and the unforgiving religious and social tempe ...more
Joy D
Centenarian Roseanne Clear McNulty has been confined in a mental institution in rural Ireland for over four decades. The institution is being replaced, and her psychiatrist, Dr. Grene, must determine if she should be released or sent to the new smaller facility. Roseanne is writing her life story, hiding it under the floorboards of her room. Dr. Grene is writing his “Book of Commonplace,” a journal of sorts, recording observations about Roseanne and events in his own life.

This book is a deep ch
Laura Anne
This book was sent to me by my mother, who is Irish, and it was sent to her by a childhood friend, also Irish, Joan's name on the front page; so, I felt obliged to read it, knowing full well it was not a book I would choose for myself.

I read the first 80? - 90 pages to be precise and realized as I was going along, that I have in fact read it before. And then more or less exactly from page 90 to about 199 I had no recollection of it at all - Blank. I must have put it down, and not returned - dis
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
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
Katie Lumsden
Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
I absolutely loved this. Barry is such a wonderful writer. This novel is full of real characters and fascinating snapshots of history, with a fantastic plot.
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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

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McNulty Family (4 books)
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