Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Prize Winning Fiction
Prize Winning Fiction

2008 Costa Winner

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry


Publisher: Faber and Faber

Length: 320 pages

About: 100 yr-old-woman's life expressed through journal

Style: 1st person

Where: Ireland (Sligo)

When: 1920s-2000s


Publisher’s synopsis:

 In The Secret Scripture, Barry revisits County Sligo, Ireland, the setting for his previous three books, to tell the unforgettable story of Roseanne McNulty. Once one of the most beguiling women in Sligo, she is now a resident of Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital and nearing her hundredth year. Set against an Ireland besieged by conflict, The Secret Scripture is an engrossing tale of one woman's life, and a vivid reminder of the stranglehold that the Catholic church had on individuals throughout much of the twentieth century.



The world begins anew with every birth, my father used to say. He forgot to say, with every death it ends. Or did not think he needed to. Because for a goodly part of his life he worked in a graveyard.


That place where I was born was a cold town. Even the mountains stood away. They were not sure, no more than me, of that dark spot, those same mountains.


There was a black river that flowed through the town, and if it had no grace for mortal beings, it did for swans, and many swans resorted there, and even rode the river like some kind of plunging animals, in floods.




But Barry is doing something darker and more daring than image-breaking. He makes enthrallingly beautiful prose out of the wreckage of these lives by allowing them to have the complication of actual history in all its messy elusiveness. "History, as far as I can see, is not the arrangement of what happens," he writes, "but a fabulous arrangement of surmises and guesses held up as a banner against the assault of withering truth." His achievement in this magnificent and heart-rending novel is a kind of restitution.

The Guardian, Joseph O'Connor, 24th May 2008 for full review click here


Not so good

It became the subject of an unusual literary controversy at that year's Costa Book Awards: although it scooped the main prize, the panel of judges damned it with faint praise. Revisiting the book in this new edition, one can see why the panel equivocated.

The Independent, David Evans 21st August 2011 for full review click here


About the author

Born 5 July 1955  in Dublin. He is the son of the late Irish actress Joan O'Hara. He attended Catholic University School and Trinity College, Dublin, where he read English and Latin. He also served as an editor of Icarus.


His academic posts have included Honorary Fellow in Writing at the University of Iowa (1984), Villanova University (2006) and Writer Fellow at Trinity College, Dublin (1995–1996).

Barry started his literary career with the novel Macker's Garden in 1982. This was followed by several books of poetry and a further novel The Engine of Owl-Light in 1987 before his career as a playwright began with his first play produced in the Abbey theatre, Boss Grady's Boys in 1988.


Barry lives in County Wicklow with his wife, the actress Alison Deegan and their three children.



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Page turner







Age guide: 12



Novels by same author:



















In May 2008, the novel was adapted and abridged by Neville Teller for BBC Radio 4's Book at Bedtime with Doreen Keogh and Alex Jennings voicing the roles of Roseanne and Dr. Grene, respectively



























2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner

It's a massive day in arts and journalism because the 100th annual Pulitzer Prize winners were just announced, and there's a big surprise. 2015's best artistic and nonfiction writing across 21 categories were recognized during a ceremony Monday afternoon at Columbia University in New York City. The first Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Hebert Bayward Swope, a reporter for The New York World, in 1916. (And if you're as big a fan of Newsies as I am, that paper should ring a bell, but try to think of it more positively.)

The major prize for book nerds, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press), a legitimate surprise, if you've been paying attention to the book nerd and industry buzz. The feeling around the prize in the last few months would have you putting all your hard-earned cash down on A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara to take home the award, but that's why you should never gamble. Viet Thanh Nguyen is no less deserving, and moreover, it's his debut novel, which makes it such a wonderful win.

Extract from New York Times to view full article...

Click here


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