Publisher: Faber and Faber
Length: 320 pages
About: 100 yr-old-woman's life expressed through journal
Style: 1st person
Where: Ireland (Sligo)
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
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.