Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

The Secret ScriptureThe Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Secret Scripture was a book club selection for the Constant Reader group on Goodreads. It was the first time I've followed their lead in choosing a novel and I will certainly look to their list for more. Sebastian Barry's use of language is beautiful.

The story tells about the protestant/catholic conflict in Ireland during the early 20th century, a setting I don't know much about. The destructive effect of the conflict on the life of Roseanne McNulty is powerful, but she handles her situation with grace and strength. Roseanne's character is the aspect of this book that impressed me the most. Although the story centers around the catholic church, the human failings of bigotry and arrogance are universal enough to leave the reader with a sense that these are still problems in our world. Religion provides an excuse for destructive action, but the source of the problems are in our nature.

There were some plot devices and coincidences that were unbelievable toward the end, but they weren't enough to diminish the overall quality of the book. The story is told by Roseanne, a 100 year old patient who has spent most of her life in an asylum. Her words are written in a hidden testimony that is discovered by a doctor who is evaluating all the patients to determine if they should be moved to a new facility that will replace their current building. The doctor's own story is told through his reflections and has its own tragedy, not as powerful as Roseanne's but still interesting.

I listened to the audio version of this book with Wanda McCaddon reading and thought she did a wonderful job. It took me a little time to get used to her Irish accent, but after that I thought her reading was as beautiful as any I've heard.

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