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The Secret Scripture | [Sebastian Barry]

The Secret Scripture

Roseanne McNulty, once one of the most beautiful and beguiling girls in County Sligo, Ireland, is now an elderly patient at Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital. As her 100th year draws near, she decides to record the events of her life, hiding the manuscript beneath the floorboards. Dr. Grene, Roseanne's caretaker, takes a special interest in her case. In his research, he discovers a document written by a local priest that tells a very different story of Roseanne's life than what she recalls.
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Publisher's Summary

Roseanne McNulty, once one of the most beautiful and beguiling girls in County Sligo, Ireland, is now an elderly patient at Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital. As her 100th year draws near, she decides to record the events of her life, hiding the manuscript beneath the floorboards.

Meanwhile, the hospital is preparing to close and is evaluating its patients to determine whether they can return to society. Dr. Grene, Roseanne's caretaker, takes a special interest in her case. In his research, he discovers a document written by a local priest that tells a very different story of Roseanne's life than what she recalls. As doctor and patient attempt to understand each other, they begin to uncover long-buried secrets about themselves. Set against an Ireland besieged by conflict, The Secret Scripture is an epic story of love, betrayal, and unavoidable tragedy.

©2008 Sebastian Barry; (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Above all it is the surpassing quality of Mr. Barry's language that gives it its power....It is like a song, with all the pulse of the Irish language, a song sung liltingly and plaintively from the top of Ben Bulben into the airy night." (New York Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (585 )
5 star
 (206)
4 star
 (201)
3 star
 (110)
2 star
 (35)
1 star
 (33)
Overall
4.0 (435 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.2 (437 )
5 star
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4 star
 (127)
3 star
 (52)
2 star
 (18)
1 star
 (17)
Performance
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  •  
    Amanda Phoenix, AZ, United States 05-17-12
    Amanda Phoenix, AZ, United States 05-17-12 Member Since 2015

    I rate as follows: 5 Stars = Loved it. 4 Stars = Really liked it. 3 Stars = Liked it. 2 Stars = Didn't like it. 1 Star = Hated it.

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    "Haunting and Lovely"

    This beautiful little novel, so perfectly narrated by Wanda McCaddon, was a welcomed change from the ordinary. While the story of Roseanne McNulty’s life is unarguably tragic, much of her commentary contains hilarious quotes and observations that often had me breaking out in unexpected laughter.

    It was difficult at times to accept how fatalistic the main character was, and how little she fought for herself throughout her life. Then again, I think that was the intent from the start; to study a life lived only within the lines others drew.

    I’m removing one star for how far-fetched the storyline was, but I do so half-heartedly. The bottom line is that this story, and Roseanne’s voice (via Wanda McCaddon) has stayed with me, even as I move through other stories. It’s a rare book that does that; and when you find one, it deserves respect.

    For those that can struggle with accents, be advised this narrator has a thick Irish brogue. Be sure to listen to the sample first, to make sure it works for you.

    79 of 82 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janice Sugar Land, TX, United States 05-21-12
    Janice Sugar Land, TX, United States 05-21-12 Member Since 2010

    Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.

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    "Small story on a big stage"

    While this story is placed in a time of great turmoil among nations and within communities, this is a very small story of its time - almost the opposite of an epic during epic times. Ireland between the two World Wars had its own Civil War, agonizingly dealing with changes on the political scene, yet this story shows how the people were still dealing with the ancient morals and superstitions that had guided them for centuries. Perhaps because of the sociopolitial uncertainties, clinging to the familiar may have felt like the only safety afforded small vulnerable villages. Roseanne is one such vulnerable person, spending the vast majority of her adult life institutionalized in an asylum, the reason for which has been lost to time and missing records. As she writes her own memoirs for whomever may find them in the future, we see the tragic events that have lead her to where she is, helpless in the face of religious and legal forces wielded by a zealous priest and unsympathetic family. Parallel to her diary, we learn of a record written by that same priest telling her story, but with many differences. Who is right? Are either of them right?

    This poignant story explores choices made, their motivations and interpretations, the reliability of memory and ultimately the relevance of memory once fate has taken a hand. The narrative focuses mainly on two characters: Roseanne and Dr. Grene, her psychiatrist who is trying to discover why she has been incarcerated for over 60 years. We meet through her writings and his research the supporting characters who have impacted her life since childhood, but Roseanne is the heart of her own story. 4 stars instead of 5 because I wished to understand some of these supporting characters better.

    I think I might have had a harder time getting swept into this story without the beautiful reading by Wanda McCaddon. Her voice becomes Roseanne's, especially at age 100, and she also gives us a moving portrayal of Dr. Grene, trying to do the right thing after failing to see the humanity of this ancient lady entrusted to his care for so many years.

    38 of 40 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deborah Chambersburg, PA, United States 01-02-12
    Deborah Chambersburg, PA, United States 01-02-12 Member Since 2006
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    "Overwrought"

    My thoughts on this one are mixed. I might have rated it higher, but the unrealistic conclusion--a bit of a deus ex machina--lowered my opinion. Barry creates a fascinating character (or should I say victim?) in Roseanne, a 100-year old woman who has spent most of her life in an asylum that is about to close. The story is told from two points of view: Roseanne's, mostly in the form of pages she has written and concealed; and Dr. Grene, who is in charge of assessing Roseanne for either release or transfer to another institution. The cruelty and prejudice of mid-20th century rural Ireland permeates the novel, and at times, the suffering of Roseanne is almost too harsh to believe. I was left to wonder whether and how one person (Mrs. McNulty, Roseanne's one-time mother-in-law) could have had such moral power over an entire town. Perhaps Barry was trying a little too hard to write a hand-wringingly tragic Irish novel, so it seems he decided to leave his readers with an impossibly happily ever after ending.

    27 of 30 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tracy L. Walters Erda, UT, United States 04-26-12
    Tracy L. Walters Erda, UT, United States 04-26-12 Member Since 2002

    bubbles

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    "This book had such a tragic lead character...."

    ....Roseann was a beautiful person who was beaten down by others so righteous and selfish who thrived on making her suffer more than a human being should. The amazing thing about the whole situation was the fact that she outlives them all.....to the ripe old age of 100 and she still has kindness and hope in her heart......this book also has a twist ending that just made me smile......I really did smile.....and kept smiling for the fact that Roseann finally has something good happen to her and that her life will be much happier in the bit she has left to live.

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. Parks 10-09-08
    K. Parks 10-09-08
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    "A perfect novel"

    Starting quietly and slowly, the story becomes mesmerizing as an exploration of two lives. The narrator masterfully conveys the voices of male and female, English and Irish characters.

    38 of 44 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Glenda Bolton, CT, USA 12-25-08
    Glenda Bolton, CT, USA 12-25-08
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    "Destined to be a classic!"

    A book meant to be listened to. The beautiful flow of story and language was enchanting. This is one of a handful of books that touched my heart.

    13 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katie Lolo, MT, United States 09-20-11
    Katie Lolo, MT, United States 09-20-11 Member Since 2014
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    "A thoughtful listen"

    Initially, I found the narrator's pace to be too fast. Eventually either she slowed down or I grew accustomed to the pace. Once that was achieved, I was mesmerized by the story, the mystery, the suspense, and the prose. A well-written and beautifully narrated thought provoking novel... I would definitely recommend it.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Austin, TX, United States 07-26-09
    John Austin, TX, United States 07-26-09 Member Since 2007
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    "Gripping Story, Beautifully Read"

    I got completely wrapped up in this cleverly plotted and moving novel. Barry is a superb writer. The language, pace, and intimacy of his writing is very satisfying. He draws out the emotional depths of the two main characters with great intelligence and compassion. And the reader is marvelous, beautifully switching the voices and and accents of the characters so you feel you are standing next to them.

    17 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vicki DuFour Chicago, Il USA 12-11-09
    Vicki DuFour Chicago, Il USA 12-11-09 Member Since 2012
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    "Terrific book"

    I thought this was a wonderful book. It was the perfect combination for me - literary fiction - beautifully written - and beautifully narrated. A very special read.

    12 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathy Bedford, TX, United States 05-30-12
    Kathy Bedford, TX, United States 05-30-12 Member Since 2007
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    "Delightful historical fiction"

    Wonderfully crafted historical fiction. The dialogue is spot on and the inner dialogue is awesome ??? a little like watching a champion gymnast execute near impossible acrobatics effortlessly. I kept hitting the re-wind button thinking ???wait! Do that again!???


    17 of 23 people found this review helpful

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