The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Berry


From “The Secret Scripture”, page 76:

Well, all speaking is difficult, whether peril attends it or not.  Sometimes peril to the body, sometime a more intimate, miniature, invisible peril to the soul.  When to speak at all is a betrayal of something, perhaps a something not even identified, hiding inside the chambers of the body like a scared refugee in a site of war.

Which is to say, Dr Grene came  back today, with his questions at the ready.”

“The Secret Scripture” is a beautiful, lyrical novel about personal history, and the stories we tell ourselves about the past.  It takes place in Ireland, at the beginning of the 21st century and leads to the beginning of the 20th.  It is told in two voices.  One, Roseanne McNulty, has reached her hundredth year living in a mental hospital.     The other, Roseanne’s caregiver, Dr. William Grene, has been tasked with her evaluation. The hospital is about to be demolished.   Is Roseanne mentally ill or has she been falsely incarcerated?  Should she be moved to a new facility or given her freedom?

Roseanne has begun the task of writing her own history,  hiding the pages beneath the floorboards of  her spare room.  Dr. Grene has begun trying to unbury Roseanne’s past and all the secrets that it holds.  In conversation these two people attempt to understand each other.  As we read the histories diverge and Dr. Grene find himself compelled to find the truth.  The novel is about love, conflict and betrayal.  It questions family and faith and the deep hold of the Catholic Church.  Barry’s language is rich, sometimes strange.  I found myself reading paragraphs over and over, out loud, just to hear the music of it.

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One response to “The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Berry

  1. Pingback: The Sunday Salon - Sebastian Barry and some thoughts on conspiracy theories « 51stories

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