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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Redemption of a Sad and Bitter Life
This is one of the better modern Irish novels I've read in a long time. Sebatian Barry has created a deeply disturbing story about the long and unhappy life of a centenarian named Roseanne McNulty as she lives out her dying days in a Roscommon asylum, the Leitrim Hotel. Her sad, mysterious life has been one of being misunderstood, mistreated, and neglected. Once a very...
Published on March 17 2009 by Ian Gordon Malcomson

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3.0 out of 5 stars Well written with a lyrical quality , but ultimately a disappointment
Starts off promising. The parallel stories of the two main characters are good contrasts to illustrate the emotional problems both are dealing with. The historical backdrop is also interesting, although keeping track of the various Irish factions can get confusing. The most striking part of the plot is the awful treatment of women by the church and the lack of rights...
Published 17 months ago by cleo


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Redemption of a Sad and Bitter Life, March 17 2009
By 
Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Secret Scripture, The (Hardcover)
This is one of the better modern Irish novels I've read in a long time. Sebatian Barry has created a deeply disturbing story about the long and unhappy life of a centenarian named Roseanne McNulty as she lives out her dying days in a Roscommon asylum, the Leitrim Hotel. Her sad, mysterious life has been one of being misunderstood, mistreated, and neglected. Once a very pretty colleen growing up in the Sligo area, Roseanne's life takes some very tragic and unexpected twists and turns throughout the twentieth century. As the daughter of a former Royal Irish Constabulary policeman and a deranged mother, Roseanne gets drawn into a very unfortunate and unhappy set of circumstances that she has no control over. Ireland is about to become independent; the Irish Catholic Church is bent on re-inforcing its authority throughout the state; and local prejudices and superstitions still carry the day. The truth of her story only comes out around her 100th birthday when the director of the asylum, Dr. Grene, does a psychological assessment of her in preparation for releasing her before the old building is demolished. In the space of a number of weeks, Dr. Grene, a very troubled man himself, holds a series of conversations with Roseanne as to the nature of her story. For a while there are two versions of events going on, as Grene and Roseanne regale each other with what they know about the past. Grene's is one obtained by checking out local and national sources, while Roseanne's is one of a selective memory of a wide range of personal hurts and indignities. Using the techniques of psychoanalysis, Grene leads Roseanne to see the bigger picture of her life: the swirl of events that make her less an author of her own terrible misfortune and more the unfortunate, hapless victim of circumstances. By the end of the novel, the issues of guilt that have burdened this woman for close to a century have been removed because two people got together to effect each other's emotional and spiritual healing. Barry writes with conviction and purpose. The old Ireland, bound by servitude to the Church and tradition, comes alive in this story as it battles to hold its own against the forces of modernism and political change.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful poetic writing, April 14 2014
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Love the writing style, and the topic is germaine, since it involves discharging patients from asylums/mental institutions (dumping them back into society after habituating them to a limited but secure lifestyle).
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3.0 out of 5 stars Well written with a lyrical quality , but ultimately a disappointment, Feb. 16 2013
Starts off promising. The parallel stories of the two main characters are good contrasts to illustrate the emotional problems both are dealing with. The historical backdrop is also interesting, although keeping track of the various Irish factions can get confusing. The most striking part of the plot is the awful treatment of women by the church and the lack of rights in both religious and secular law. However, the climax of revelations for both characters is a disappointment because the depth of the fallout from the initial transgressions is just not believable and the ending is absurd. Not even sure Dickens would have tried to incorporate so many coincidences . The writing style is enjoyable but the story isn't worth your time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Scripture, March 19 2012
By 
Dave and Joe (Toronto, Ontario) - See all my reviews
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Read this book for the sheer delight of reading the writing. Barry's ability to tell a powerful and dramatic story with such a delicate touch and such an appreciation for language is genius. This book has a lot to say, and it says it well. This is one of the few books that transcended the page and entered into my dreams. I 'felt' this book. Anyone interested, like I am, in what society does to those who are inconvenient, those who need 'tidied away' will learn from The Secret Scripture.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A shockig look inside and Asylum, April 8 2011
By 
Heather Pearson "Heather" (Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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I listened to the audio version of this novel. It was from Blackstone Audio and was read by Wanda McCaddon, unabridged, 9 hours and 45 minutes.

At first I was rather confused as to which character was speaking until I realized that each change of character was announced. Somehow I had managed to mis-understand what was happening. Once that was cleared in my mind, I was able to follow the story and enjoy it.

Roseanne McNulty of County Sligo, Ireland has been living in a mental hospital for most of her adult life. As she approaches the age of one hundred years, the staff psychiatrist Dr. Grene is required to assess her and determine her suitability for release. Over the course of the next weeks/months, Dr. Grene tries to coax Roseanne into telling her story. She is very resistant. Unknown to the doctor, Roseanne has been recording her memories in a notebook that she keeps hidden.

I found myself outraged on Roseanne's behalf. All she wanted was to be able to love her husband, yet she was blocked at so many turns. I was also shocked at the in-adequate level of care that Dr. Grene showed his patients. One would think that after decades of being her psychiatrist, he would have known her history and that he would have established weekly sessions with each patient. He admitted that he only visited Roseanne once or twice a year to she that her physical needs were being met.

This is an interesting story and it challenges me to consider the role of religion in personal relationships and also the position of priests and the power they wield.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars boring, boring, boring!!!, Feb. 19 2010
By 
A. Jacques (Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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I know this book has good reviews but it didn't impress me at all. NOTHING HAPPENS. If you want to read something fantastic read "The Gargoyle" by Andrew Davidson. I do not recommend this book.
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The Secret Scripture
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry (Audio CD - Oct. 1 2008)
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