Secrets – a hundred years old

Author: Sebastian Barry

Title: The secret scripture

The renowned Irish author Sebastian Barry certainly didn’t disappoint his readers with his new fiction novel; ‘The secret scripture’. It is one of those books that you can’t put down. 

Set in Rescommon Mental Hospital, the protagonist: Roseanne McNulty is a one hundred year old who is secretively writing her personal journal. Starting at the beginning of the twentieth century when Roseanne was 12, she remembers her father, a graveyard keeper and a rat catcher later, who looked after the dead first and caught rats later. Roseanne’s journey runs parallel with that of her doctor: psychiatrist Dr Grene, who started his investigation into why Roseanne was locked up in the asylum more than half a century ago. His professional journal, that he kept during this investigation is interwoven with Roseanne’s memories of her past and creates an interesting dichotomy in the narrative and poses several questions about the truth of the recollections.

Is Roseanne’s memory accurate or has it been clouded with the passing of time? What really had happened to Roseanne during all those years?  As Dr Grene’s interaction with Roseanne during his investigation he is gradually drawn closer to her and the tenderness and comfort that he finds in Roseanne is undeniable. As Roseanne’s life slowly unfolds, readers discover the shocking secrets that lead to her circumstance. A life affected by the Catholic Church and their hostility towards Protestant in a land, the political turmoil of the time, wars and revolution, all of which made young and beautiful Roseanne’s existence so miserable and unbearable. Many secrets that take Roseanne so long to unveil and still I wonder what secrets remain that are kept in dark somewhere, especially things involving the church? The story is very well written with its narrative beautifully crafted. I loved this book although I didn’t like its ending, because it was too dramatic. However, I think maybe the author just needed something to lift an otherwise a sad and heavy book. The book won 2008 Costa books award and was shortlisted for Man Booker Prize. Well worth the read.