Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Secret Scripture

I read this in a day, and felt a mixture of elation and sorrow when it ended.

Elation, because the novel was an exercise in Irish lyricism, language so beautiful that it brought to mind Yeats; sorrow because the content of the novel was a harrowing account of life in rural Ireland in the early part of the century, and dealt deftly on the themes of feminism, female sexuality and madness (which are often seen as one and the same eh?), religion, politics (learnt a lot about the history of the IRA and the Irish civil war) and a misogyny insidiously prevalent in Irish societal norms at the time.

What I liked best was the duelling narrative of Roseanne Clear, an almost 100-year old woman who has lived in a mental asylum for the last 60 over years, and Dr William Grene, the resident psychiatrist in the asylum who, under pressure from the public, has to assess the various geriartic patients to see who amongst them are really mentally ill and should be moved to the new but smaller hospital premises, and who is well enough to be released to the community. What their narratives uncover is a small family tragedy, made all the more poignant as one can imagine it repeated in various small communities across the emerald isle.

The only small criticism I have is the plot contrivance at the end, a twist I saw coming when I was about a third into the book. Compeletely improbable, and a bit too neat, I felt. But that's a very small niggle in the face of such an immensely well-written novel.

1 comment:

maree said...

Dora..put this by my Mama bed for some of my holiday reading x