Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Secret Scripture - Sebastian Barry

  • I call this chewy prose. I need to read it slowly, to savour it, at times to read parts aloud to hear the words dissolve in the air to get their full impact. To me it’s no surprise that this is published by Faber & Faber, I associate them with the more poetic end of prose.
  • Roseanne has a nostalgic voice that I could listen to for hours. She is hypnotic and lulls me into a pleasing dreamlike state.
  • Collected quotes - ‘There was a curious skein of whiteness on her features, like a sprinkle of halfhearted snow on a roadside. Perhaps it was a powder she used. The sunlight that they day outside virtually dumped into the room had betrayed it.’ and ‘…it all gathered together like a sea, the sea of Bet, and rose up from the depths of our history, the seabed of all we were, in a great wave, and crashed down on the greying shore of myself, engulfed me, and would that it had washed me away for good.’
  • I like the duet that the two narratives create. Dr. Grene isn’t all knowing despite his power and position and Roseanne fills in the gaps for us. Although at times their voices sound rather too alike considering their difference in age and circumstance, this seems rather unlikely. There is a confessional tone, it feels like they are speaking directly to the reader. This seems quite common in Irish literature.
  • There is a gothic tone to this novel. Rat catchers, grave diggers, orphanages, asylums, ghostly phonecalls and windswept beaches. It is the second book in a row to feature a hanging.
  • The relationship between psychiatrist and patient seems a popular one - and if it’s done well it’s one I enjoy. A good example for me was 98 Reasons for Being (Clare Dudman) while one that didn’t work was The Other Side of You (Salley Vickers).
  • This would have been higher up in my 2008 Booker favourites were it not for the ending - which came so suddenly and felt so contrived as to leave me with nothing but an ‘oh’ of disappointment! 7 out of 10 falling feathers

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