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With this work, renowned Irish playwright Barry furthers his reputation as a great novelist as well. Set in a Roscommon mental hospital, the novel centers on 100-year-old Roseanne McNulty, who secretly records her life in a hidden journal. In sometimes painful detail, she describes a heartbreaking childhood in Sligo, affected triumphantly and tragically by events unfolding in the world beyond: two world wars, the emergence of the Irish Republic, and the often devastating influence of the Catholic Church on the lives of people in need. Her entries alternate with the writings of Dr. William Grene, a kindly if distant psychiatrist attempting to assess Roseanne's mental health. For both, writing is revelatory. Their stories beautifully unfold like blooming roses, breathtakingly revealing the ties that bind them. The prose is rich, and Barry's gift for description and especially dialog are considerable. Readers familiar with Barry's work will recognize people and places from other novels, notably the protagonist of The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, who plays a tenderly rendered key role in this highly recommended title.--J.G. Matthews, Washington State Univ. Libs., Pullman (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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The latest from Barry (whose A Long Way was shortlisted for the 2005 Booker) pits two contradictory narratives against each other in an attempt to solve the mystery of a 100-year-old mental patient. That patient, Roseanne McNulty, decides to undertake an autobiography and writes of an ill-fated childhood spent with her father, Joe Clear. A cemetery superintendent, Joe is drawn into Ireland's 1922 civil war when a group of irregulars brings a slain comrade to the cemetery and are discovered by a division of Free-Staters. Meanwhile, Roseanne's psychiatrist, Dr. Grene, investigating Roseanne's original commitment in preparation for her transfer to a new hospital, discovers through the papers of the local parish priest, Fr. Gaunt, that Roseanne's father was actually a police sergeant in the Royal Irish Constabulary. The mysteries multiply when Roseanne reveals that Fr. Gaunt annulled her marriage after glimpsing her in the company of another man; Gaunt's official charge was nymphomania, and the cumulative fallout led to a string of tragedies. Written in captivating, lyrical prose, Barry's novel is both a sparkling literary puzzle and a stark cautionary tale of corrupted power. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* From the first page, Barry's novel sweeps along like the Garravogue River through Sligo town, taking the rubbish down to the seas, and bits of things that were once owned by people and pulled from the banks, and bodies, too, if rarely, oh, and poor babies, that were embarrassments, the odd time. We are in the head and the journal of 100-year-old mad Roseanne McNulty, locked up for decades in an asylum in rural west Ireland. She has begun writing her life story, hiding it nightly beneath her bedroom's creaking floorboards. Simultaneously, her putative therapist, Dr. Grene, who barely knows her, much less her history or prognosis, begins an observation journal about her. The asylum is to be downsized, and he must determine whether she is sane enough to live on her own. He attempts to reconstruct the reasons for her imprisonment, as it turns out to be, and that pitches the novel into the dark depths of Ireland's civil war and the antiwoman proscriptions on sexuality of the national regime Joyce famously called priestridden. Barry weaves together Grene's and Roseanne's stories, which are ultimately the same story, masterfully and with intense emotionality that nevertheless refuses to become maudlin. Another notable part of Barry's artistry is the sheer poetry of his prose, now heart-stoppingly lyrical, now heart-poundingly thrilling. An unforgettable portrait of mid-twentieth-century Ireland.--Monaghan, Patricia Copyright 2008 Booklist