Award-winning novelist on island

Irish playwright, novelist and poet Sebastian Barry will read from and discuss his 2008 Costa Prize winning novel, The Secret Scripture, at Books & Books on Friday, 8 May at 7pm.

Sebastian Barry’s visit to the Cayman Islands is part of the International Visiting AuthorSeries at Books & Books which is sponsored by Ogier and Sunshine Suites. The event is free, open to the public and will be followed by a book signing.

The Secret Scripture (published by Viking) is the story of Roseanne McNulty, a 100-year-old resident of Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital, who has lived in the institution almost all of her adult life.

In a journal that she hides beneath the floorboards of her room, she writes an account of her youth in Sligo, Ireland in the 1930s, and what happened that brought her to the asylum so many years ago.

The story is also told from the perspective of her psychiatrist, Dr. Grene, himself driven half-mad by grief after the death of his wife. He has been asked to evaluate the patients at the institution, and to decide whether or not they can return to society when the hospital closes in a few months.

In the process, he is driven by an impulse he cannot comprehend to discover the truth about Roseanne.

As the pieces of Roseanne’s life are brought into focus, two different versions of her past emerge. In addition to the diary that Roseanne is keeping, Dr. Grene uncovers a deposition that was written by a parish priest, which tells a very different story. And as doctor and patient attempt to understand each other, they begin to uncover long-buried secrets about themselves.

Set against an Ireland besieged by conflict, The Secret Scripture is an epic story of love, betrayal, and unavoidable tragedy, and is a vivid reminder of the stranglehold that the Catholic Church had on individual lives in Ireland for much of the 20th century.

Sebastian Barry was born in Dublin in 1955 and was educated at Trinity College, Dublin. His academic posts include Honorary Fellow in Writing at the University of Iowa (1984) and Writer Fellow at Trinity College, Dublin (1995-6).

His plays include Boss Grady’s Boys (1988), The Steward of Christendom (1995), Our Lady of Sligo (1998), The Pride of Parnell Street (2007), and Dallas Sweetman (2008).

Among his novels are The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty (1998), Annie Dunne (2002) and A Long Long Way (2005), the latter shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

His poetry includes The Water-Colourist (1982), Fanny Hawke Goes to the Mainland Forever (1989) and The Pinkening Boy (2005).

His awards include the Irish-America Fund Literary Award, The Christopher Ewart-Biggs Prize, the London Critics Circle Award, The Kerry Group Irish Fiction Prize, and Costa Awards for Best Novel and Book of the Year.

Mr. Barry lives in County Wicklow, Ireland, with his wife Ali, and three children, Merlin, Coral, and Tobias.