The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

My favourite author Sebastian Barry

I’m a big fan of the author Sebastian Barry, I’ve read nearly all of his books, although he started out his career as a playwright, in the last few years he has become more well known as an author.  I really like the McNulty family series, he has written about.  Barry has written several books so far based on the semi-fictional McNulty family who lived in Sligo, in the north west of Ireland in the early twentieth century.

These include the first book called The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, which was published in 1998.  Then came The Secret Scripture published in 2008 and The Temporary Gentleman in 2014 and Days without End published in 2016.

The first book follows the story of the books title character, Eneas McNulty, a former Royal Irish Constabulary police officer, who is exiled from Ireland.  The second book is narrated by Roseanne Clear who marries into the McNulty family, which was to be her undoing and the third book follows Jack McNulty, a soldier and engineer in the British Army, Jack is a brother of Eneas and brother-in-law of Roseanne.  As all of the characters are related, they are mentioned in the three books and some events are re-told from the main character’s point of view, which like in real life can vary the narrative.  These books were loosely based on his Mother’s side of the family from Sligo.

In 2016, Barry released his latest book, Days without End which follows the character of Thomas McNulty, who hailed from Sligo and was an ancestor of the author, McNulty emigrated to America in the late 1840’s to escape the Famine and enlists in the army and takes part in both the Indian Wars and the American Civil War.  This Thomas McNulty was referenced in the other books as the McNulty family in John street had an old tintype photo of a great uncle in a US army uniform.

I especially like these books, as I’m originally from Sligo but due to work have had to move to Dublin and I love the lovely poetic descriptions of my hometown, also I can relate to one of the themes running through the books, about longing for home.

I have also read his books based on the Dunne family, these books are loosely based on his family from his Father’s side of the family, who lived in Dublin and Wicklow.  They include Annie Dunne published in 2002, Annie lives with her Cousin Sarah in Wicklow and is looking after two young relatives for the Summer.

A Long Long Way is set during World War 1 and follows a soldier from Dublin, Willie Dunne, it was published in 2005 and my favourite on that trilogy is On Canaan’s Side.  It follows Lily Bere, the sister of the character Willie Dunne from A Long Long Way, as she flees Ireland with her boyfriend and settles in America, it follows her story from 1920’s Ireland to 1980’s America.

On Canaan's Side
On Canaan’s Side by Author Sebastian Barry, published in 2012 by Faber and Faber, is the third book based on the Dunne Family


I think that’s another reason why I enjoy Barry’s books,  as they offer a social history of the twentieth century. Sebastian Barry’s book, The Secret Scripture was made into a film by director Jim Sheridan and released in 2017.

Blog first published in 2014 and updated in 2017

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