Plot: Roseanne McNulty is a hundred year old patient in a mental hospital. No one can remember the events that led to her being committed. When the patients have to be relocated, Dr Greene has the task of evaluating everyone under his care. He must assess Roseanne to see if she is fit for the `real world` again.
But in doing so, Dr Greene takes it upon himself to discover how Roseanna came to be in his care. As both he and Roseanne explore the events of her past, the truth becomes a matter of opinion and secrets are revealed.
Quote: `It is funny, but it strikes me that a person without anecdotes that they nurse while they love, and that survive them, are more likely to be utterly lost not only to history but the family following them. Of course this is the fate of most souls…`
Opinion: This was a re-read for me. However, I had no recollection of the plot and it felt like coming to the book for the first time. I had forgotten the twists and turns it takes, the characterisations and the complexities that make up Roseanne’s past. For that, I am glad.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The narration is split between Roseanne and Dr Greene. Roseanne’s part is then split between the ancient woman writing her past and the girl in that past. The characters are engaging from the start of the book, creating enough mystery and suspense that the reader is instantly drawn in. But that mystery only deepens when Dr Greene stars looking into Roseanne’s past himself and the conflicting finds being presented is a guaranteed hook to keep the reader engaged. The need to know who is right and precisely what happens outweighs any other feeling.
With an engaging plot and likeable characters, there is very little negative points to make about this book. Winner of the Costa Book of the Year in 2008, The Secret Scriptures is certainly worthy of that title. It was the first book for a while I was gripped by and unable to put down. There are moments towards the end when the truth is being discovered about characters that the plausibility is called into question for the first time. However, the ending is open and that ability to interpret events how you wish means those far-fetched moments don’t matter. Certainty is not a word associated with this book. It is based on belief. Not in a God, but in the truth. At least, what the character believes to be the truth.
The plot is engaging and twisting. The writing is technically sound as well. Barry creates a novel that transports the reader to a time where making friends with the wrong person could cost you your life. He provides a real sense of the lifestyle that Roseanne had to deal with and the empathy he creates for his characters is powerful and moving. Definitely a recommendation if you want something heart-warming and intriguing.