On Canaan's Side, Hardback
4.5 out of 5 (5 ratings)

Description

'As they used to say in Ireland, the devil only comes into good things.' Narrated by Lilly Bere, "On Canaan's Side" opens as she mourns the loss of her grandson, Bill.

The story then goes back to the moment she was forced to flee Dublin, at the end of the First World War, and follows her life through into the new world of America, a world filled with both hope and danger.

At once epic and intimate, Lilly's narrative unfurls 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, it is a novel of memory, war, family-ties and love, which once again displays Sebastian Barry's exquisite prose and gift for storytelling.

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Reviews

Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews.

Review by
4

illy Bere is a retired Irish immigrant living in a small cottage on Long Island, who reflects on her life after the death of her beloved grandson Bill. She grew up in Dublin as the beloved daughter of a respected policeman, but was forced to flee to the United States with her first love Tadg, after he was targeted for harm by Irish nationalists during the Troubles. The two settled in Chicago, living initially as brother and sister under hidden identities, but they eventually married. Unfortunately tragedy falls upon the two lovers, and Lilly travels undercover to Cleveland. There she remains homeless and jobless, until she collapses and is rescued by a black man who comes upon her. He takes her into his home, and she becomes best friends with his daughter, whose physical size is exceeded by her generous and warm heart. Lilly's life in Cleveland continues to be filled with pain and grief, which follows her to the nation's capital, where she is employed by a wealthy woman, and Long Island, where the woman's daughter allows her to spend her retirement in physical comfort, although she is unable to escape the ghosts that have haunted her past.<i>On Canaan's Side</i> is a captivating and heartbreaking novel, perhaps too much so, which I enjoyed more than Barry's previous Booker Prize shortlisted novel <i>The Secret Scripture</i>. It certainly deserved to be on the longlist, and I'm surprised and disappointed that it wasn't selected for the shortlist this year.

Review by
4

Lily Bere recalls and records the decades of her life since enforced immigration from Ireland with new husband Tadg. Each chapter is a day further from the death of her grandson. She looks back on individual incidents and the circumstances that have brought her to the determination to end her 87 year old life.This is a beautifully written book. Savour the language and reread passages to enjoy.

Review by
4

A poignant story of an old Irish woman living in America, looking back on her life and the people in it which she loved. Her life spans the 20th century and we get a taste of pre-independence Ireland from a pro-empire perspective which I found quite refreshing. It's nice to see that the author portrays the fact that there were many Irish people who were not neccesarily interested in a republic. All in all a moving story that I enjoyed, however I don't buy the comment from the protaganist towards the end of the book, in which the protaganist more or less states she did not know whether the 'black and tans' were doing bad things or not during the 20s. I don't know if this was maybe a little apologist nod from the author but it certainly doesn't sit with a 1st generation Irish American character, considering Irish Americans have historically been almost more pro-indepencence (albeit romantically) than the Irish themselves.<br/><br/>Although I enjoyed this book I much preferred Barry's previous book The Secret Scripture.

Review by
5

This book tugged my heart strings in a way that I can't ever remember a book doing. Powerful.

Review by
5

This book tugged my heart strings in a way that I can't ever remember a book doing. Powerful.

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