Monday, September 10, 2012
Athena K's Review - The Secret Scripture
After completing this novel, I have decided that Sebastian Barry is one of my very favorite novelists - and I have only read two of his books. It is his rich and detailed writing style that I love - and his ability to connect his images to a story and to characters that I connect with on an emotional level.
The narrative is split between two characters - 100 year old Roseanne is an inmate at an asylum, and has been for many many decades. She's not clear why she has been committed to the asylum for all of these years, but she recounts her past as she remembers it in her journal, which serves as half of the narrative. Her doctor, Dr. Greene recounts the other half of the narrative in his medical log. He too does not understand why Roseanne has been an inmate and he is drawn to unearthing her past just as he avoids his own.
The Secret Scripture is a novel about memory and the past - as my favorite Irish novels seem to be. But it is also a beautiful story about loyalty, loss, and the tricky line between independence and isolation. And through this, Barry creates fantastic images. I can still picture the burning rat, and Roseanne's mother's clock, because they were described so richly and connected scenes that evoked very strong emotions. The hammers and the feathers --I can still see them falling.
Simply put, I really enjoyed this book. The imagery was so compelling because it was connected to a moving mystery told by two engaging and complex characters. I loved both the story being told by Roseanne, and the story that lay underneath as revealed by Dr. Greene - both the mysteries and the answers. In my opinion, it surpassed The White Tiger, which won this year.