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Publisher's Summary

From the two-time Man Booker short-listed author of The Secret Scripture comes a magnificent new novel that is the story of the twentieth century in America. Told in the first person, as a narrative of Lilly Bere’s life over seventeen days, On Canaan’s Side opens as Lilly mourns the loss of her grandson, Bill. Lilly revisits her past, going back to the moment she was forced to flee Ireland at the end of the First World War, and continues her tale in America, a world filled with both hope and danger.
At once epic and intimate, Lilly’s story unfolds as she tries to make sense of the sorrows and troubles of her life and of the people whose lives she has touched. Spanning nearly seven decades, from the Great Depression to World War II and 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.
Sebastian Barry’s plays have been produced in London, Dublin, Sydney, and New York. His novel A Long, Long Way was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, as was The Secret Scripture, which was also a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist and winner of the Costa Book of the Year Award and the James Tait Black Prize for Fiction, as well as the Irish Novel of the Year. Barry lives in Wicklow, Ireland, with his wife and three children.
©2011 Sebastian Barry (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

“On Canaan’s Side is written with vast sympathy and tenderness. Sebastian Barry’s handling of voice and cadence is masterly. His fictional universe is filled with life, quiet truth, and exquisite intimacy; it is also fully alert to the power and irony of history. In evoking Lilly Bere, he has created a most memorable character.”—(Colm Tóibín, author of the Costa Novel Award–winning Brooklyn)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Laurene on 12-24-11

Lovely and sad

This is the voice of a nearly-90 Irishwoman describing the course of her life, mostly led in America. The narration is perfect, which is so important with a character piece like this. Lily's loses, one after the other, nearly every person, and certainly every man, she has ever loved to the various forms of violence or injustice of the 20th century, but especially to war.

It *is* a sad story, but in the nourishing way that's not just dreary. The writing is very good, very evocative, full of powerful little observations about life and a strong sense of place and love. Lily doesn't perceive herself as a tragic figure, and she certainly doesn't wallow in self-pity, so maybe that's why it leaves you with such a sense of strength. I think the author is trying to portray the personal loss of all the women of the world, especially the ordinary, working class women, that so often is overlooked in accounts of the world's big events. I ended up very moved by it.

That said it seems to start very slowly, and I wasn't sure at the beginning where it was going. There are some surprises, but this is not so much about the story. You have to stick with it, which is easy to do with this narrator. It will grow on you.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Kathleen Rogers on 11-06-11

Irish melancholy--and a tiny bit of mirth

I found this novel profoundly sad, but the narrative voice of Lily, the 89 year old narrator, was so vivid and interesting, that I kept with it. Irish and Irish-American history of the last 100 years as played out in the life of LIly is a dark and fascinating topic, and Barry does a good job with it. I do think that Lily, who is writing down her memories after her grandson has died, would not have quite the poetic and descriptive torrents of words that Barry puts in her mouth, but I was willing to suspend my disbelief because I enjoyed the writing. Good narration by Wanda McCaddon.

If you have read Barry's The Secret Scriptures, I think you will like this one, too.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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