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1 Hawthorne Literature- A to Z

On Canaan's Side

by

On Canaan's Side Cover

ISBN13: 9780670022922
ISBN10: 0670022926
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Staff Pick

Sebastian Barry's ability to explore the inner workings of human thought and emotion are paired with his innate ability to capture these things on paper. His novels often read like memoirs: he is somehow able to create characters that are so real, you can feel their breath, see their face, and experience their despair. On Canaan's Side gives us the story of Lily Bere, who loses her grandson, and while immersed in a grief that she knows will kill her, she begins chronicling her life. Spanning seven decades and two continents, Lily tells her story of love, marriage, fear, tragedy, and the mysteries in life that are often unanswerable. Barry is an absolute master of combining exquisite prose with an intriguing story, and his books are an enlightening experience of beauty and insight.
Recommended by Dianah, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

From the two-time Man Booker shortlisted 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 she 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.

Review:

"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.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Synopsis:

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.

About 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.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 4 comments:

Kathryn Gann, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by Kathryn Gann)
For a short book, this one packs a wallop. Sebastian Barry explores the themes of love, grief, memory, war, and the 20th Century through seventeen days in the life of Lilly Bere, as told from her first-person perspective. I was hooked on page 4 where Lilly comments on grief following her grandson's death: "I am so terrified by grief that there is solace in nothing. I carry in my skull a sort of molten sphere instead of a brain, and I am burning there, with horror, and misery." I had both an emotional and a visceral response to those words. There is nothing predictable about this story, and the twists and turns force the reader to confront all the aforementioned themes. The book has resonated with me for a year, and I'm sure it will continue to seep into my thinking as time goes on. Just as "A Long, Long Way" by the same author has done (and I read that over 5 years ago).
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Amber Sumrall, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by Amber Sumrall)
This is easily the best book I read in 2011. Wonderful story and excellent conveying of that story. It has all the elements of great fiction.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
KParks, January 2, 2012 (view all comments by KParks)
Quietly complex. Psychological, deeply moving. Sebastian Barry never fails.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
View all 4 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780670022922
Subtitle:
A Novel
Author:
Barry, Sebastian
Publisher:
Penguin Books
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20120828
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » General
Featured Titles » Literature
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

On Canaan's Side Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.95 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Viking Books - English 9780670022922 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Sebastian Barry's ability to explore the inner workings of human thought and emotion are paired with his innate ability to capture these things on paper. His novels often read like memoirs: he is somehow able to create characters that are so real, you can feel their breath, see their face, and experience their despair. On Canaan's Side gives us the story of Lily Bere, who loses her grandson, and while immersed in a grief that she knows will kill her, she begins chronicling her life. Spanning seven decades and two continents, Lily tells her story of love, marriage, fear, tragedy, and the mysteries in life that are often unanswerable. Barry is an absolute master of combining exquisite prose with an intriguing story, and his books are an enlightening experience of beauty and insight.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Synopsis" by ,

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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