Monday, August 13, 2012

The Secret Scripture > Review > Edit The Secret Scripture (Kindle Edition) by Sebastian Barry


A psychiatrist in charge of a decrepit psychiatric asylum--you could hardly call it a hospital--is faced with the need to prepare for its closure by planning the discharge or transfer of all his patients. One of those patients is an old woman claiming to be one hundred years old. Like many of the older patients, the circumstances of her commitment are lost to history, and the psychiatrist must evaluate not only her present condition, but also whether she was ever mentally ill or dangerous to anybody. He begins to interview her, spending more time with her than he has spent in her decades as a patient. Unfortunately for him, she is determined to withhold the vital information he is so interested in obtaining.

The real story is set forth not so much in the conversations between doctor and patient, but in the pages of a journal, or daybook, that Dr. Grene begins to keep and the testament that Roseanne McNulty--if that is her real name--conceals under a floorboard in her room as she finishes each chapter. Barry maintains an excellent tension as the reader tries to determine whom to believe and who is the unreliable narrator: Dr. Grene, Roseanne, or the priest whose testimony seems to be the basis of Roseanne's commitment.

The Secret Scripture is full of believable and engaging characters and explores the themes of the Irish Civil War and the power of the Catholic church in Ireland. Contrary to my largely negative reaction to so many Booker Prize books, this shortlisted novel fully rewards the effort and time spent in reading it. I've awarded it a solid four stars, but it could easily be four and a half.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, Jack. You talked about the book before book group. I'll join in, but with no detail. I'm enjoying it, too. We'll have a good discussion tomorrow night.

August 13, 2012 11:44 AM  

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