Betsy McTiernan's Reviews > The Secret Scripture
The Secret Scripture
by Sebastian Barry
by Sebastian Barry
Betsy McTiernan's review
May 23, 2012
This is my first encounter with Irish writer Sebastian Barry. the Secret Scripture is the life story of an old Irish woman, a Protestant, who is institutionalized in her 30s, not for insanity, but because she becomes an inconvenience to her husband's family and to the priest of Sligo, her rural community in the west of Ireland. We meet Roseanne Clear when she is almost 100, still incarcerated and beginning to write her secret scripture. She wants to tell her side of the story before she dies, though she can't imagine who will ever read it. At the same time, the institution's psychiatrist is assessing all the patients because the institution will be demolished and the patients must be released into the community or transferred to other institutions. He becomes interested in Roseanne's case. The mystery--and it's a doozy--is revealed through Roseanne's testimony and her doctor's diary. And you'll get not another word out of me on that subject. Suffice it to say that Roseanne is a wonderful character--intelligent, reflective, and humble--who offers up some of the most poetic and astounding images I've read: "The day was absolutely peaceful, absolutely calm, the sky ripped open by scars of blue across the expanse of clouds, but my mood belonged to some other sort of day." Or in remembering her father sitting with her at night..."the moon first sitting on the back wall, and then floating darkly and brightly as is the manners of the moon, into the sky of unattainable stars....Finally, I kept thinking that maybe this story could be read as an allegory of Irish history with its endless conflicts among its people--family feuds, so to speak--caused by multiple invasions, mixed loyalties, and prolonged suffering.
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