Now in her hundredth year, Rose McNulty, once the most beautiful girl in County Sligo, Ireland, has spent a lifetime locked up in a mental asylum for reasons which gradually become clear as she tells her story. She has a secret diary and she is interviewed by Dr. Grene who suspects that she was incarcerated for social reasons rather than medical. Rose was an innocent victim of religious and political hatreds during the Irish civil war. It is a tense novel of survival and an epic story of love and betrayal.
This is a magnificent novel for the serious reader. Barry’s writing is beautifully elegant but also energetic and well crafted, suspenseful and historical. There is a movie made from this book by the same name which came out in 2015 with Vanessa Redgrave. I think because Barry’s poetic prose softened the darkness of the subject matter, I found the movie more difficult to watch and even more emotionally devastating. Oddly, in the book I felt the surprise ending was a bit far-fetched but in the movie it was so movingly perfect, that it made me cry.