WW1 Fiction — A Long Long Way by Sebatian Barry

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a fan of Sebastian Barry. He tells a great story and his writing is accomplished and beautiful. But it was Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy, that led me to A Long Long Way. Her books kindled my interest in the First World War and make me keen to read more.

There are not too many accounts of Irish men who fought in the Great War so Barry’s novel appealed to me on more one level. Of course that period of time is also a very significant in Irish history and the interweaving of the two themes adds to the interest, particularly for Irish readers.

As in The Secret Scripture, memory and history are interwoven in A Long Long Way. Barry is an excellent writer and this novel is one of my favourites. If you are interested in reading about the First World War and have not already come across Sebastian Barry or Pat Barker, I would suggest starting with Barry and moving on to Regeneration.

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

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.