Mention Sebastian Barry Secret Scripture in Ireland and chances are that it will open up quite a conversation. This is because it touches on controversial issues.
The heroine is Roseanne McNulty, an elderly lady and long time resident of an Irish mental hospital or county home in Co Roscommon.
In the past, it was not unusual in Irish families for a family member to be locked away. This might happen, for example, if an unmarried woman had a child. Perhaps someone’s behaviour was not considered ‘normal’ in some way. Perhaps someone was simply inconvenient.
Almost every family concealed secrets and so Barry’s novel strikes a chord.
Memory in The Secret Scripture
But Barry’s novel is not just about secrets. The Secret Scripture is also very much a story about memory. What is remembered, what is misremembered and how memories differ.
What struck me as most original in The Secret Scripture is the way that Barry makes you question your own reading. I found myself turning back to check if I was remembering accurately what I believed I had read.
A lot of people talk about being disappointed with the ending of this novel. However, I say don’t let that put you off. This is one of those books that will stay with you for a long time and might even change they way you view the world. If you’ve never read Sebastian Barry, you have a treat in store.
You might also like The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty.