Chuck's Reviews > The Secret Scripture

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
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Nov 03, 2008

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Read in November, 2008

Set in Ireland during the first part of the twentieth century, this novel alternates between two texts: a secret manuscript of reminiscences kept by a 100 year-old female psychiatric patient, and a commonplace book kept by her doctor. For an elderly woman who was incarcerated on grounds of mental illness, Roseanne McNulty is remarkably lucid, recalling her earlier years in vivid detail. Although not all of her recollections are corroborated by documentation that Dr. Grene discovers, the discrepancies may be chalked up to the morass of conflicting data confronting any historical researcher. In any case, Roseanne's personal history and Dr. Grene's eventually come together in a surprising fashion. One thing we learn about is the terrible damage that the Catholic Church (represented by the aptly named Father Gaunt) managed to inflict on young "licentious" women not so many decades ago. Even so, the victim in Barry's evocative story manages to maintain grace and generosity.

This novel was justifiably short listed for the 2008 Man Booker Prize.

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