On Canaan's Side

On Canaan's Side

3.6 17
by Sebastian Barry
     
 

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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

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.

Sebastian Barry's latest novel, Days Without End, will be available from Viking in January 2017. 




From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Peter Behrens
…Barry is a supple narrator and a virtuoso stylist. Lilly Bere—exile, housemaid, wife, mother, cook, survivor—tells her story in a radiant Irish voice…Narrating a story of hatred and vengefulness in the voice of a woman resolute in compassion, Barry applies a breadth of vision often absent when nationalists and revolutionaries of any nationality consider the "other," especially if that "other" happens to be a loyalist of the ancien regime.
—The Washington Post
Rachel Nolan
Other writers of Barry's generation, like Colm Toibin and Colum McCann, have described that distinctive Irish tradition of leaving Ireland. But Barry's immigrant novel feels more old-fashioned, more sepia-toned with its high seriousness, its frank antiwar message, and its sense that a story properly begins with childhood, contains all the events of life and ends with death. The beauty of this novel is that for all its murders and scents of Irish heather, it is not overwritten.
—The New York Times Book Review
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.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101544259
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/08/2011
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
265,475
File size:
244 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

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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On Canaan's Side 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An old Irish woman's musings on her life, both in Ireland and then the U.S. = beautifully written.
HenryR58 More than 1 year ago
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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wcorrig1 More than 1 year ago
an enjoyable read,well written, moves quickly