On Canaan's Side: A Novel

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Overview

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, a mesmerizing new novel from the award-winning author of The Secret Scripture

A first-person narrative of Lilly Bere?s life, On Canaan?s Side opens as the eighty-five-year-old Irish ?migr? mourns the loss of her grandson, Bill. Lilly, the daughter of a Dublin policeman, revisits her eventful past, going back to the moment she was forced to flee Ireland at the end of the First World War. She continues her tale in America, where?far from her ...

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New York, NY 2011 Hard cover New. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 272 p.

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New York, NY 2011 Hard cover First edition. New in new dust jacket. SHIP DAILY from NJ; GIFT-ABLE as NEAR NEW FIRST, GLOSSY, fresh, NEAR NEW (beginning sign of shelving bump) ... w/DJ NEW AS SHOWN THIS COVER Sewn binding. Clothette over boards. With dust jacket. 272 p. Audience: General/trade. 9358 9358--Told in the first person, "On Canaan's Side" is at once epic and intimate. Spanning nearly seven decades, from the Great Depression through World War II to the Vietnam War, it is the heartbreaking story of a woman whose capability to love is enormous, and whose compassion, even for those who have wronged her, is astonishing. Read more Show Less

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New York 2011 Hard cover First edition, 1st printing. New in new dust jacket. SIGNED by author on title page (signature only). 1st edition, 1st printing, complete number line. ... New, unread copy in protective mylar sleeve. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 272 p. Audience: General/trade. By the author of 'A Long Long Way' and 'The Secret Scripture'. Where possible, all books come with dust jacket in a protective mylar sleeve, sealed in a ziplock bag, wrapped in bubble wrap, shipped in a box. Read more Show Less

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On Canaan's Side

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Overview

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, a mesmerizing new novel from the award-winning author of The Secret Scripture

A first-person narrative of Lilly Bere’s life, On Canaan’s Side opens as the eighty-five-year-old Irish émigré mourns the loss of her grandson, Bill. Lilly, the daughter of a Dublin policeman, revisits her eventful past, going back to the moment she was forced to flee Ireland at the end of the First World War. She continues her tale in America, where—far from her family—she first tastes the sweetness of love and the bitterness of betrayal.

Spanning nearly seven decades, Sebastian Barry’s extraordinary fifth novel explores memory, war, family ties, love, and loss, distilling the complexity and beauty of life into his haunting prose.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lilly Bere is an 89-year-old retired cook living in the Hamptons in Long Island in Irish writer Barry's latest novel (after The Secret Scripture). Lilly is mourning her grandson, a veteran of the first Gulf War, who has just committed suicide. But this is hardly the first loss she's had in a life spanning continents and many other wars. Born and raised in Ireland, Lilly's first encounter with loss comes when her brother Willie is killed in WWI. A fellow soldier, Tadg Bere, comes to pay his respects to the family and woos her in earnest soon after. The young couple has no time to marry, as Tadg, enrolled in the Black and Tans, an auxiliary police force, is implicated in an ambush of IRA militia men and a price is put on both their heads. They flee to America under assumed names, hoping to start a new life there in safety with the help of some extended family in Chicago, but the past catches up with them. Over the subsequent decades, Lilly is tossed around her adopted country, grappling with the distance from her homeland. She's fascinated by the expansiveness and vigor of America despite her unceasing heartache over the generations of men and their war service. Barry's skills are evident as he tenderly unspools Lilly's story, with a fine eye for intimate moments, but the final impression of her life against its historical backdrop is clouded by the familiarity of many of the novel's elements and the schematic way each additional emotional blow falls relentlessly, tugging at the reader's heartstrings with diminishing force. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Lilly Bere's complex life spans 20th-century America: owing to IRA death threats, she flees Ireland with her fiancé, he's killed, she marries and survives the Depression, her husband disappears, she raises a son who's called up for Vietnam, then he disappears, leaving a young son behind. Summed up that way, this book sounds implausible, but the award-winning Barry (e.g., Costa Book of the Year) has the skill to make it work. With a six-city tour.
Harty Irish America
“Sebastian Barry, one of Ireland’s most successful playwrights and novelists, is at his best when he is writing about those who find themselves marginalized in the new Ireland as it emerges from under the yoke of British. And in his new book, On Canaan’s Side, we once again find him dealing with characters whose lives are swept up in the changing tide of Ireland’s independence…As always with Barry, the language is beautiful. I had to slow myself down to savor the way he puts words together, for he is a master craftsman.”
Allen Barra
“Sebastian Barry’s achievement, enhanced by his latest novel, On Canaan’s Side, may be too great to be defined by the Booker or any other literary prize. Barry, the greatest prose writer in Irish letters—which by definition makes him the greatest writer of prose in the English language…No other novelist now writing can convey as Barry does the way in which unrighted wrongs continue to reverberate down through the ages, creating new versions of old tragedies for people with no knowledge of their origins…On Canaan’s Side fits seamlessly into Barry’s unique and expanding vision, seeking to restore with language that which has been taken away by time. Its real subject isn’t politics or even history but memory, a memory which reveals that ‘a measure of tragedy is stitched into everything if you follow the thread long through.’”
Laura DeMarco
“Lilly Bere is exceptional. She frees herself from one homeland and takes root in another. Her story is as American as it is Irish…elegiac…this Dubliner’s portrayal of our city feels organic. From the East Ohio Gas explosion to a run-in with racism at Luna Park, he weaves a rich, authentic backdrop. His prose is roundabout and tender…It’s a testament to the power of Barry’s quietly elegant prose that her immigrant story seems so tragic and so real.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Richly detailed, often cinematic…This is no self-indulgent apologia, and Irish writer Sebastian Barry makes the fine distinction between sentiment and sentimentality with a deft hand...With all the quiet interiority and the equanimity with which events are recalled here, it’s easy to overlook how exciting those events were. The “plot” is full of surprises – many shocking. War, single parenthood, betrayal, unexpected acts of compassion, death too early – or in at least one case, too late – and race relations are all threads in the tapestry of Lilly’s life. Accommodations must be made at every turn and Lilly makes them, all the while maintaining her own moral poise. Deservedly short-listed twice previously for the Man Booker Prize, Barry in his current offering maintains, and at times exceeds, the high level of finely wrought empathy attained in those award nominees…And as in those two novels, the play of history as it most intimately affects individual lives in such an infinite variety of ways is on exquisitely touching display.”
Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Sebastian Barry is a significant Irish writer and his new novel, set mainly in the United States, is a wonderful introduction to his work…The plot is beautifully crafted. Lilly’s wanderings…make the story seem episodic, but Barry knows exactly what he’s doing; the latter part of the novel has several convincing surprises.”
Milkwaukee Journal-Sentinel
“Gorgeously written.”
New York Journal of Books
“[A] compact but leisurely told narrative rich in mood and depth… On Canaan’s Side’s climactic pages glow with wonder and terror. They reach a catharsis of prose poetry as they mingle dramatically.”
Booklist
“Tripping, liquid prose that adroitly evokes everything from the smell of an Irish countryside to the heaviness of grief.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670022922
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/8/2011
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 5.70 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Sebastian Barry

Sebastian Barry was born in Dublin in 1955. 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. He lives in Wicklow with his wife Ali, and three children, Merlin, Coral, and Tobias.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 17 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 10, 2011

    well written

    an enjoyable read,well written, moves quickly

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2013

    thin, but precious

    An old Irish woman's musings on her life, both in Ireland and then the U.S. = beautifully written.

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  • Posted January 11, 2013

    Superb writing.

    This is an enthralling story portraying an incredible life filled with hope, sadness, and joy. Some paragraphs are so breathtaking they require immediate rereading. It is my first Sebastian Barry book, but not my last. Wonderful.

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    Posted September 13, 2011

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