On Canaan's Side
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 Sligo, at the end of the First World War, and follows her life through into the new world of America, a world filled with hope and danger.

On Canaan's Side Details

TitleOn Canaan's Side
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseAug 4th, 2011
PublisherFaber and Faber
ISBN-139780571226535
Rating
GenreAudiobook, Fiction, Novels, Cultural, Ireland

On Canaan's Side Review

  • Agnieszka
    January 1, 1970
    Though this is only my second Sebastian Barry novel I feel I can recognize his voice now. First one I read of him it was The secret scripture and, as I found out later, it was part of a cycle McNulty Family. This one in turn with other titles creates Dunne Family.Both novels being different are alike or perhaps it was the other way round. Maybe I’ll find accurate words to review The secret scripture yet but now I focus on On Canaan’s Side. Lilly Dunne, well, let’s be exact, Lilly Dunne Kinder Though this is only my second Sebastian Barry novel I feel I can recognize his voice now. First one I read of him it was The secret scripture and, as I found out later, it was part of a cycle McNulty Family. This one in turn with other titles creates Dunne Family.Both novels being different are alike or perhaps it was the other way round. Maybe I’ll find accurate words to review The secret scripture yet but now I focus on On Canaan’s Side. Lilly Dunne, well, let’s be exact, Lilly Dunne Kinderman Bere is eighty nine when she starts her account and just buried her grandson, Bill. Every chapter, that starts with subtitle first day without Bill, then second, third and so on to the very end titled night, is a record of a long life against the vast backround of turbulent times. The most important moments of Lilly's life are also key moments in history.Lilly lived long enough to experience forced escape from native Ireland to America, on Cannan’s side, though it didn’t save her nor her husband. The narrative shifts back and forth so we could see her life in Dublin, in reminiscences we can see all the boys that perished in the Great War along with her brother Will Dunne, we can see Lilly married and then, in rather advanced age of forty something, abandoned with the new born baby, we can see Vietnamese war and living hell that destroyed peace of her son, we can see Lilly mothering beloved grandson to finally witness his participation in the war on the desert and its disastrous aftermath.Lilly’s voice is like distant echo of previous years. Half nostalgic, half mourning. For the life one had and lost. For the life one could have had if only history didin’t hunt us down. And now for Bill. I am an interloper at the feast of life, I am eating food and drinking drink meant for him as she states.Lilly is fragile, old woman in the latter part of her life but yet once she had to be strong to outlive the whole twentieth century and its atrocities. We can admire her steadfastness and almost superhuman strength so doesn’t suprise us at all that men here are shown as weaker sex. For they are weaker almost in every way: physically, socially and emotionally. I thought it was very moving and heart-wrenching story but it felt at times too fragmentary. Though Lilly’s voice is clear and strong the other voices seem a bit muffled if not barely audible. I think I would make do without some threads while others I would love to see more developed. Mister Nolan and his history is one of them for sure. Some explanations feel a bit unfinished though it rests on reader's sensitivity and perceptiveness to fill in the blanks. In a way I think Barry writes over and over the same theme and probably the other tomes of the cycle would deepen and broaden our perspective and understanding.
    more
  • Violet wells
    January 1, 1970
    If you've read a few Barry novels this feels formulaic and repetitive. A woman at the end of her long life narrates her story, echoing The Secret Scripture and she has to flee Ireland because of finding herself on an IRA death list, echoing The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty. It's odd he wrote this after those two books as if he was stuck in a groove because it's like an inferior version of both. The narrator rather rambles on in a somewhat sentimental vein. I skim read the last fifty pages becaus If you've read a few Barry novels this feels formulaic and repetitive. A woman at the end of her long life narrates her story, echoing The Secret Scripture and she has to flee Ireland because of finding herself on an IRA death list, echoing The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty. It's odd he wrote this after those two books as if he was stuck in a groove because it's like an inferior version of both. The narrator rather rambles on in a somewhat sentimental vein. I skim read the last fifty pages because I was bored. 2.5 stars.
    more
  • Jeanette
    January 1, 1970
    The lad knows how to unspool a yarn, that is for certain. If you're planning to read this book, I would caution you against reading long detailed reviews about the plot and characters. The story really needs to unfold at the author's pace in the proper sequence. If you have hints of what's coming, it will dull your enjoyment of the book. JUST THE BASICS: Lilly is an 89-year-old woman who is preparing to take her own life. Her grandson Bill has committed suicide, which is just one too many losses The lad knows how to unspool a yarn, that is for certain. If you're planning to read this book, I would caution you against reading long detailed reviews about the plot and characters. The story really needs to unfold at the author's pace in the proper sequence. If you have hints of what's coming, it will dull your enjoyment of the book. JUST THE BASICS: Lilly is an 89-year-old woman who is preparing to take her own life. Her grandson Bill has committed suicide, which is just one too many losses for her in a long life of great loss. She does not want to linger in a world without her Bill. Lilly spends seventeen days reeling out her life story in what she calls a 'confession.' She tells of her girlhood in Ireland, and then the rest of her life as a wind-blown immigrant in America. Sebastian Barry is a gifted Irish storyteller. My only reservation about this novel is that there's an almost affectless quality to much of the narration. The most joyful and the most heartbreaking moments are presented with a certain detachment that keeps the reader at a distance from the events. And yet, I read from page 67 to the end all in one sitting. I tend to be a restless reader, and a book has to be a genuine jewel to hold me still for that long. On Canaan's Side is one of those jewels, but it has the muted luster of a pearl rather than the dazzle of a diamond. I found it 'unobjectionable,' as Lilly herself might say.
    more
  • Chrissie
    January 1, 1970
    It is the writing that makes this book special. Some lines are lyrical, for example when describing landscapes. Some are amusing, for example in dialogs. Some lines express in the most perfect words emotions, both jubilant and sad. Questions about existence and life and if one can even go on are written in words that speak to you. Well at least they did to me! Fear and loss and total aloneness, love and friendship and exuberant joy, betrayal and forgiveness are explored. This book movingly deals It is the writing that makes this book special. Some lines are lyrical, for example when describing landscapes. Some are amusing, for example in dialogs. Some lines express in the most perfect words emotions, both jubilant and sad. Questions about existence and life and if one can even go on are written in words that speak to you. Well at least they did to me! Fear and loss and total aloneness, love and friendship and exuberant joy, betrayal and forgiveness are explored. This book movingly deals with the emotions that make up the jumbled mix of our lives. These emotions touch us through the author’s lines. We follow an Irish immigrant, Lilly Bere. She is born at the turn of the 20th century. From Dublin she immigrates to the US where she lives in Chicago, Cleveland, Washington D.C. and then Bridgehampton, NY. The book says a lot about what it is to be an immigrant, to be from another place one can never quite forget. The United States, being the melting pot that it is, has many immigrants, each with their own stories to tell. The book is peppered with such stories. Lilly misses the white heather on her father’s hill; for the Greek it is the honey of his homeland that comforts. These stories make the characters unique. Lilly is 89 when she now sits down to write of her life. This is her last confession. It is given to us so we can think, compare, draw conclusions and perhaps judge. The wars of the 20th century, the First World War, the Second World War, the Vietnam War and the first Iraqi war, as well as Ireland’s fight for independence were not merely events that happened parallel with Lilly’s own life. They shaped her life and the lives of those she loved. In the novel we are not placed there in the battles; the focus is rather the consequences of war experiences on individuals’ lives and ultimately on Lilly’s life. Each chapter in the book is a countdown of the 17 days following the death of her grandson – Billy. What will she do then? Being black, put passing as white, is another themeLook at the title. It leaves a message. Grainne Gillis narrates this audiobook. I thought she did a tremendous job. She captures different dialects and the characters’ personalities wonderfully. Rarely do I want a narrator to do anything but read the author’s lines; in this book she does more than this, but she does it so pitch perfectly that I loved it. She sings the lines of songs. She expresses perfectly the thoughts lying beneath the author’s lines. She is the delicious icing on a scrumptious cake. Don’t read this book; listen to it instead, narrated by Grainne Gillis. When I read what this book was to be about, it didn’t particularly capture my interest. It is through the author’s words that the book shines.
    more
  • Julie
    January 1, 1970
    I started with a few quotations from Barry, to show the poetry of it all, and realized that I would end up quoting most of the book . What is the point?When I read, it is for myself alone: the closer and more personal the reading, in fact, the less I can speak of it to the outside world; and so, in the end, only the vaguest of impressions become transmuted, eventually, into a paragraph or two on the meaning of what I've just read: a phrase, a sentence to jog the memory and bring back to mind the I started with a few quotations from Barry, to show the poetry of it all, and realized that I would end up quoting most of the book . What is the point?When I read, it is for myself alone: the closer and more personal the reading, in fact, the less I can speak of it to the outside world; and so, in the end, only the vaguest of impressions become transmuted, eventually, into a paragraph or two on the meaning of what I've just read: a phrase, a sentence to jog the memory and bring back to mind the beauty that I just experienced; or the stone in my heart that he lodged there. Lilly Bere's life is all of that, as she writes in her 89th year and recalls the forces that moved her from Ireland to America. Forces that moved her: because she did not go willingly; and yet paradoxically, willingly she sailed with her first beau, to escape a sentence of death cast on their lives. She went neither willingly, nor unwillingly, but ... unobjectionably ... the word Barry uses to describe her plight; and most apt it is. Lilly's entire existence was a long stream of unobjectionable circumstances that occurred to her, or fell on her like fate, or she took into herself, like a prayer.Tag was a circumstance that happened to her; Kinderman was her fate; Ed and Bill were her prayers.In 256 pages, Barry manages to hold and round out the history of Ireland and America in a way that ten history books could not do: how the thousands, millions of individual souls that crossed the wide, roiling sea came to rest on stranger ground to build a house and home, without leaving behind the house and home in Ireland; how they encountered others, leading parallel lives who in their minds longed to reverse the voyage undertaken by Lilly: to go home to the heather and the hearth fire, who in their own dreams hear Lilly's echoed life:... And I am remembering other things, the bell-flowers on the ditches that we could burst between thumb and index finger; .... and the blackthorn blossom in April, a greyish white, and the mayblossom itself in May, a different white, a whiter white, and the gorse as yellow as a blackbird's bill in May also, with its own smell, the smell as near as bedamn to the smell of a baby's mouth after drinking its mother's milk, I do bellieve. And the rooks rowing in the old high trees above Kelshabeg, such fractious birds, yet married to the one bird all their life like good Catholics, and the wren in its tiny kingdoms in the earthen banks, and the wood pigeon offering its one remark, over and over, and where there were storms out in the Wicklow sea we heard the seagulls bickering and badgering on the winds, and in the dense copses the badgers themselves in the night-time, choosing among roots, and the fox both feared and admired, the red renegade, coming down to test our henhouse for weakness in the dark, and the nightingales and the stormy spring the fresh arrowheads of the house martins and the swallows, could even God tell the difference between? And Maud and me, before any of our life took darkness to it, ... going along without a thought for tiredness, it did not exist and when we got to the cottage there was the bucket at the door to pull a drink out of, and a stew sitting on the hearth and bread perfected in the pot-oven on the yard and then tea to kill the thirst, the best drink for thirst and then bright early in the morning to get up in the sun and set to all the tasks. ... I am writing it, I am writing it and I spill it all out on m lap like very money, like riches , beyond the dreams of avarice.Such is the life of the immigrant soul.And then, like a current, like a silent underground river that moves beneath it all, the echoes of the war drums: The First World War, The Second World War, Vietnam, The Gulf War ... the thudding echo, like a heartbeat that will not die, from William Dunne to William Dunne Kinderman Bere, all of them, may they rest in peace.It is possible, Barry suggests, to finally lay down the implements of war. Robert Doherty did, beyond all reason and logic, truer to the human heart than the political one. Lilly Bere did, truer to her compassion than to her fear, even as she steps across the seas again, at the end of life's light.
    more
  • Roger Brunyate
    January 1, 1970
    A Discovered HappinessA sad book that turns out not sad at all. "Bill is dead. What is the sound of an eighty-nine-year-old heart breaking?" is the arresting opening. Grief-stricken at the death of her grandson, Irish expatriate Lily Bere wants only to set down her memories before putting a quiet end to her own life too. Each chapter, headed simply "First Day without Bill" and so on, tells us a little bit about her present life and a lot about her past, until eventually the two meet up. She is l A Discovered HappinessA sad book that turns out not sad at all. "Bill is dead. What is the sound of an eighty-nine-year-old heart breaking?" is the arresting opening. Grief-stricken at the death of her grandson, Irish expatriate Lily Bere wants only to set down her memories before putting a quiet end to her own life too. Each chapter, headed simply "First Day without Bill" and so on, tells us a little bit about her present life and a lot about her past, until eventually the two meet up. She is living in the Hamptons, in a small cottage fixed up for her by her former employer for whom she worked as cook. Her memories take her back to the age of four, in the early years of the last century, when her father was a senior police officer in Dublin. Associated with the wrong side, unfortunately, for in the struggles for Irish independence, Lily and her fiancé are forced to flee to America with a price on their heads. The "Canaan's Side" of the old hymn, the near bank of the Promised Land after the crossing of the Red Sea, is of course the USA, where Lily and her lover are forced to lead a fringe existence under assumed names. It will be long before she will feel herself truly American—but it is already clear that she ends up surrounded by caring, tactful people who respect and even love her.Just listen to the exuberance of Barry's writing, as here when Lily and a fellow servant are taken by an admirer to ride their first-ever big dipper in Luna Park in Cleveland: We poised, three beating hearts, three souls with all their stories so far in the course of ordinary lives, three mere pilgrims, brilliantly unknown, brilliantly anonymous, above a Cleveland fun park, with the wonderful catastrophe of the sunlight on the river, the capricious engineering of the tracks, the sudden happiness of knowing Joe…. So begins a two-page paragraph, all in a single sentence, as the poise and the rush and the joy and the terror, laughing and crying all at the same time, becomes the pivot point for an entire life.Barry's technique of adding facts only when truly important makes it very difficult to say much more about the plot. Suffice it to say that it will take Lily from the bloodshed of the Troubles in Ireland to an America that moves from the heady Twenties through the Depression and several wars. All the men in Lily's life will be touched by war, from the First World War that killed her beloved elder brother to the First Gulf War that so affected her grandson Bill. The American assassinations of the Sixties will also play a part, bringing to the surface issues of race that had been a dormant subtext from quite early on. I am not convinced that Barry can quite manage to sustain the story over such a long span; there are some chapters about two-thirds of the way through when the intensity flags somewhat, and a couple of revelations towards the end stretch credulity a little. But his ability to balance the epic with the intimate, as the book jacket rightly claims, is nonetheless amazing.Barry begins many of his books at roughly the same place, with the agonized birth of the Irish state, but extends them further in time and place with each one. A Long Long Way, for instance, about Lily's brother, addresses the paradox of Irish soldiers fighting for their country in Flanders only to be treated as traitors when they returned home (a point which Barry gently parallels to the plight of Vietnam veterans here). And The Secret Scripture, another memory piece, shows Barry's remarkable ability to get into the mind of a very old woman; that is one of the true joys of this book also. For what might have turned into a despairing wail of grief becomes instead a tapestry of light and wonder: And I notice again in the writing of this confession that there is nothing called long-ago after all. When things are summoned up, it is all present time, pure and simple. So that, much to my surprise, people I have loved are allowed to live again. What it is that allows them I don't know. I have been happy now and then in the last two weeks, the special happiness that is offered from the hand of sorrow.
    more
  • Annet
    January 1, 1970
    Wow... what a wonderful book. I loved it. Still sort of speechless because of the beauty and strength of it. I do intend to write a further review, when ready...
  • Dem
    January 1, 1970
    When I started this book I just read the first 30 pages and did not get back to it until the next day and when I picked it up again I was hooked and could not put it down I really enjoyed this novel. I had previously read The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry and loved it so was looking forward to this book.This book is long listed for the Booker Prize and tells the story of 89 year old Lilly Dunne's departure from Ireland with her boyfriend Tadg who was a member of the Black and Tans and the When I started this book I just read the first 30 pages and did not get back to it until the next day and when I picked it up again I was hooked and could not put it down I really enjoyed this novel. I had previously read The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry and loved it so was looking forward to this book.This book is long listed for the Booker Prize and tells the story of 89 year old Lilly Dunne's departure from Ireland with her boyfriend Tadg who was a member of the Black and Tans and the IRA have a price on his head. This departure from Ireland takes place shortly after the first world war and tells the story of Lilly's new life in America. The story opens with the death of Lilly's grandson Bill and from here Lilly remembers back on her life in Ireland and America and her adventures include fake identies, the IRA, betrayal, love, loss and hope. Each chapter is narrated by Lilly as each day slowly passes since the burial of her grandson Bill and she remembers her life as she has lived it.The prose in this book is beautiful and the story is really well told. The first 30 pages of this Novel I was a little fazed as to where the story was going but after the initial first couple of chapters the story flows and I could not put it down. There is a lot in this book and so much that Barry leaves to the imagination. Quite a few issues come up in the book and are not fully explained or dealt with by Barry but I feel that is how real life is and perfer this sort of novel than one where all the loose ends are tied up as this is not a protrayal of real life and I love the fact that Barry leaves plenty to the imagination in this book. This is a short novel and a very easy read.Ok! then why the 4 starts?(would have given it 4.5 if I could) I did not understand or like how the novel ended, and I can not get it out of my head !! I am looking forward to other readers opinions and I think there will be plenty!! Did Barry do this on purpose? Perhaps, as I can imagine this aspect of the book will make for a great Bookclub discussion and I for one will be putting my vote on this book at my next bookclub meeting.To sum this book up a great read, a real page turner and a great bookclub read.
    more
  • Fionnuala
    January 1, 1970
    I have read three of Sebastian Barry's books so far, The Secret Scripture, Annie Dunne and this one. In all of them, he shows himself to be capable of creating hugely memorable characters and of relaying their thoughts in such beautiful language that I find myself rereading passages frequently. This is writing to savour like good wine, full of intense expression and deep feeling. I think my favourite of the three is Annie Dunne because Barry hardly bothers with any plot at all so the spare story I have read three of Sebastian Barry's books so far, The Secret Scripture, Annie Dunne and this one. In all of them, he shows himself to be capable of creating hugely memorable characters and of relaying their thoughts in such beautiful language that I find myself rereading passages frequently. This is writing to savour like good wine, full of intense expression and deep feeling. I think my favourite of the three is Annie Dunne because Barry hardly bothers with any plot at all so the spare story is carried along by the beauty of the writing alone. I had a problem with the unlikely conjunction of circumstances in the plot of The Secret Scripture and that marred for me an otherwise moving reading experience. I very nearly had the same reaction to the plot twists he weaves into On Canaan's Side but on reflection, I feel that he managed this one more successfully, that some of the coincidences which occur are more fitting, and the ending just right. Spoiler alert.The only quibble I have is the very broad range of the story - not so much the accumulation of war scarred relatives - I think that is unfortunately all too credible - but the veiled allusions to the Kennedy family, the Martin Luther King references, and the miscegenation theme. Barry can write so well and so easily about the generation of Irish people who lived through the war of independence that I wonder if it isn't his publishers who have put pressure on him to broaden his themes and to add extra sensational plotting to appeal to a wider audience. He captures so well the dilemma Irish people of the early twentieth century faced as the old colonial power began to loose its hold on Ireland. Some had been in the resistance, others had collaborated with the old regime and they all had to work out some entente after independence. There were many tragedies as a result and everyone paid a price, perpetrators as well as victims. I think the paid assassin character is very interesting and his story might have been developed more but of course, since the account was all from Lily's point of view, and unless a convenient diary or some documentation was found later, that was impossible. In spite of those reservations, I am convinced that Sebastian Barry is a fine writer and I will look out for more books by him.
    more
  • Adrian White
    January 1, 1970
    When I first tried reading Sebastian Barry's A Long Long Way, I had something of an adverse reaction and put it down; or rather, I threw it down, shouting why the fuck couldn't he just write one simple sentence without all that flowery, roundabout, get-there-in-the-end fluff and nonsense? In other words, there was something of a culture clash as this English boy found the Irish boy's use of language to be quite an alien thing. It wasn't until I heard Sebastian Barry read from the book that I got When I first tried reading Sebastian Barry's A Long Long Way, I had something of an adverse reaction and put it down; or rather, I threw it down, shouting why the fuck couldn't he just write one simple sentence without all that flowery, roundabout, get-there-in-the-end fluff and nonsense? In other words, there was something of a culture clash as this English boy found the Irish boy's use of language to be quite an alien thing. It wasn't until I heard Sebastian Barry read from the book that I got it, that I had an aaahh moment and realised that, although the words were English, this was a different language, an alien language to me and it was there to be embraced in the same way as, for example, Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting. Now, you might well think that was a bit slow of me and you'd probably be right; I might never have got it if Sebastian wasn't such an accomplished, charming and theatrical reader of his work. The experience reminded me of when I first read John McGahern's Amongst Women, more or less on publication and while I still lived in England. I loved the book but there were many mysteries to me that weren't revealed until I read it a second time, having left England to live in Ireland. Moran in Amongst Women is a type of man that just doesn't exist in England; hell - the Irish would tell you we can't even pronounce the name correctly. If Moran was exiled to England he'd no longer be the man he was in Ireland.But now, having read Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture and returned to and enjoyed A Long Long Way, I luxuriate in his language. In his latest book, On Canaan's Side, there are many sentences that stop me dead in admiration: 'The world was made for lesser mortals generally.' How loaded are those words? How - yes - poetic? And yet, still, how alien? Simple language used in a way I'd never dream of. And the measured pace of the storytelling: once again we have some old biddy looking back on her life, just as in The Secret Scripture and, before that, in Annie Dunne. But what a life and what a story to tell: come here, and let me tell ya . . .Having enjoyed such success over the past few years, there's no need for Sebastian Barry to attempt to emulate anybody, but On Canaan's Side has something of the feel of Colm Tóibín's Brooklyn - the jacket image perhaps or the leaving of Ireland for the Promised Land of the United States. I didn't mind Brooklyn but it didn't exactly blow me away me either. It smacked of striving too hard for commercial success - a kind of Tóibín-Lite - and, while it started with a nod towards William Trevor's Felicia's Journey, it ended up sailing closer to Maeve Binchy's Echoes.I thought as I read (and loved) Joseph O'Connor's Ghost Light that he was maybe trying to 'do a Sebastian Barry' with the language he used - or rather, with the way he used the language - and that this was no bad thing. There was also that south Dublin/Wicklow setting and yet another old dear reminiscing on a long life lived on foreign shores. The story was on a modest, less epic and more intimate scale than, for example, The Star of the Sea, but there was no harm in that and I've a feeling Joseph O'Connor was setting himself a writerly challenge that he passed with apparent ease but which must have taken a lot of very, very hard work.These Irish boys - they know how to evoke and to suggest, how to transport their reader to a different land in the way that music takes us to different places in our minds, be it with the words of a ballad or a tune or a melody. And I wish I could do it too.
    more
  • Tony
    January 1, 1970
    I love to cook. I do. I have a binder where I carry recipes and notes. I lug it from its shelf. A history of sorts and an old friend who soothes. I may have to add this advice, spoken to the main character in this wonderful book:'Heat is how that pot thinks, Lilly. It is like my grandma singing a lullaby, not too loud so you keep sleep away, not too soft and baby can't hear the words. Try and hear the heat, Lilly. Hear the pot thinking. You hear it, you hear it? It's there. You will. And when yo I love to cook. I do. I have a binder where I carry recipes and notes. I lug it from its shelf. A history of sorts and an old friend who soothes. I may have to add this advice, spoken to the main character in this wonderful book:'Heat is how that pot thinks, Lilly. It is like my grandma singing a lullaby, not too loud so you keep sleep away, not too soft and baby can't hear the words. Try and hear the heat, Lilly. Hear the pot thinking. You hear it, you hear it? It's there. You will. And when you do, you'll be able to do any sauce in the world.'Love that, as it's true enough.This book visits once again the Dunne family which Barry has mined in his previous works. So, he necessarily demands comparison. Thinking back, I liked Annie Dunne and A Long, Long Way the best. This, and A Secret Scripture, utilized coincidence and contrivance a bit too much in the plot. For me, anyhow, the sauce was a bit too thick.Here, we get a meditation of the soldier, returning from war. It's a worthwhile reflection, because we should all think of returning soldiers. We should. 'The war did something to me, Ma,' he said.'I know, son,' I said.'I can't find the end of the string. I can't remember the tune.'Think of that as you stir the roux.
    more
  • Elaine
    January 1, 1970
    I really wanted to love this book, with its naive yet poetic, rhythmic voice, but I could not. Instead, doubts clawed at me (what a spry crew of seniors up through nonagenerians we have in Lilly Bere, Mr. Nolan, Mr. Eugenides, etc. -- is it possible that an 89 year old could write her autobiography, including of her various forays from Bridgehampton beachside to village shops, and not have physical frailty, apart from the oddly featured constipation, enter into it? Are there too many coincidence I really wanted to love this book, with its naive yet poetic, rhythmic voice, but I could not. Instead, doubts clawed at me (what a spry crew of seniors up through nonagenerians we have in Lilly Bere, Mr. Nolan, Mr. Eugenides, etc. -- is it possible that an 89 year old could write her autobiography, including of her various forays from Bridgehampton beachside to village shops, and not have physical frailty, apart from the oddly featured constipation, enter into it? Are there too many coincidences -- people running into each other as if all of the Eastern half of the United States were an Irish village -- or is that the precise point of the book?). I think these doubts find a place because, despite the sweeping scope (a century of war, immigration, race relations), there is less narrative impulse and characterization than there is poetry. Lilly herself is an enigma, pretty, good -- too good -- she does not have a wicked or ungenerous impulse in the entire book, which makes her trying at the least and ahistorical at the most (an Irish girl in 1920s Cleveland without even a qualm of prejudice, a devoted servant to the great for 60 years without an inkling of class envy or resentment), and long suffering. She is done to, not doing, for nearly a century -- from when her brother's friend asks her out and then gets her blacklisted, and her father sends her away to a foreign land, until the very end, when for the first time in 89 years, we sense agency. This lack of center, as well as the fairy tale Bridgehampton of benign elderly that surround Lilly in her later years, gives the book -- despite its many tragedies -- a dulled. wrapped in cotton sensation, no real pain gets through all the niceness, and all the elaborately metaphoric language. (At one point, the sea viewed from the distance is described as being like a thousand patients waiting nervously in a doctor's surgery -- an odd, incongruent simile, especially in good old Lilly's mouth, but typical of the book, which tends to use many words sometimes for the sheer sake of using them without regard to what Lilly's 90 year old voice might actually sound like).And yet, I give it 3 stars for virtuoso moments, and for the germ of a bold original story in the tale of Lilly, Cassie Blake, Cleveland in the 30s, Joe Kinderman and Mike Scopello, and the relationships between them all. Those episodes have a heft and a freshness lost in the rest (the theme that WWI and Vietnam drove people mad and wasted young lives is a considerably less fresh topic, and extending that chorus of wanton destruction of youth to the first Iraq war is perhaps a bit of stretch -- but it would have defied sense to make Lilly live on past 100 to see the second Iraq war, which one sensed was Barry's true subject, so Kuwait had to stand in). But the racial and ethnic story of the Cleveland years is new, and actually, for the only time all book, those sections deliver some real tension and punch. Too bad they are only an episode in a book that seems longer than it is.
    more
  • A. Mary
    January 1, 1970
    I think this book wants to be an epic, but it never makes it. There are many wars, races, nations, events, but it just never comes together as a grand story. The major shortcoming is Lilly, the protagonist and narrator. Barry did a much stronger job of creating an aged Irish woman when he wrote Roseanne in The Secret Scripture. There are problems of voice with Lilly. Rarely does she speak as an Irish person, even though she was nearly twenty when she emigrated. The occasional little phrase is dr I think this book wants to be an epic, but it never makes it. There are many wars, races, nations, events, but it just never comes together as a grand story. The major shortcoming is Lilly, the protagonist and narrator. Barry did a much stronger job of creating an aged Irish woman when he wrote Roseanne in The Secret Scripture. There are problems of voice with Lilly. Rarely does she speak as an Irish person, even though she was nearly twenty when she emigrated. The occasional little phrase is dropped as an afterthought. She waxes ecstatic about America, and American evenings, and everything else, beyond all reason, beyond all immigrants. There is little of the longing for home that is part of the emigrant experience. What makes it so problematic is that Lilly is rhapsodizing about a place where terrible things happen to her, repeatedly. At times, I began to wonder if Barry had written a giant satire. Some Canaan. Some promised land. Lilly is almost entirely acted upon. She makes no decisions. She isn't asked. She gets sent out of Ireland. She gets put in a car and taken to Washington. Et cetera. She's unbelievably passive. She sat quietly in the cafe and listened to Joe's story, and I wanted her to go blow his cover. She tended to the dying man when I wanted her to kill him, or at least to walk away. She has a late vision of a dancing bear, and that is what Lilly is--a toothless, dancing bear, in foreign surroundings with a ring in her nose.This is book three of the Dunne family, and it's an interesting concept, indeed. They aren't sequels. They are overlapping, individual stories. Barry is most successful with Willie's story, A Long, Long Way. It is a very beautiful book, especially appropriate November reading. Annie Dunne and On Canaan's Side are missing something. Barry writes a female protagonist at least as often as a male, but of the five novels I have read, Willie Dunne and Eneas McNulty are surer.
    more
  • Elizabeth (Alaska)
    January 1, 1970
    I've found another author of whom I want to read more. I see now that this is part of a series, but I think it is a series by GR standards, in that some of the people in the 4 novels appear in the other novels. At least I hope that is the case, because this is the 4th in the series and I'm hoping that they are all stand alone novels.This is a journal of sorts, so a first person narrative. It is one undertaken only upon the death of 89-year old Lilly Bere's grandson. In the first pages we know th I've found another author of whom I want to read more. I see now that this is part of a series, but I think it is a series by GR standards, in that some of the people in the 4 novels appear in the other novels. At least I hope that is the case, because this is the 4th in the series and I'm hoping that they are all stand alone novels.This is a journal of sorts, so a first person narrative. It is one undertaken only upon the death of 89-year old Lilly Bere's grandson. In the first pages we know this is to be the memory of her life, but that she intends to take her own life when she has finished writing it down. We may be immune to typhoid, tetanus, chicken-pox, diphtheria, but never memory. There is no inoculation against that. She has sad memories.I want to say the prose is good, but it probably just fits Lilly's characterization. Frankly, I never thought much about the prose, which I always do, so it must be that it is neither too simplistic nor too complex. There is really only the one good characterization of Lilly, and that, of course what she lets us see of herself. But, as she didn't live a life without others, of course we do have glimpses into other lives and characterizations.I want to give this 5-stars, but I'm not going to. In my earlier years being a GR member, I probably would have. I did not know then how much good literature the GR community would reveal to me. This is quite good, but somehow it is missing that last bit. And so it sits with a few others at the very tip top of the 4-star group.
    more
  • Sheri
    January 1, 1970
    I guess I'm alone in not liking this book. First, what everyone seems to think of a "lyrical" language is, to me, run on sentences that lose the point as they ramble. More times than once I had to stop and think "what on earth is the author getting at here?". Second, the strange, rambling plot contrivances that seemed to appear and disappear without resolution...the serial killer? why was Joe's car at the location of the murders (or did the "lyrical" language cause me to miss some key revelation I guess I'm alone in not liking this book. First, what everyone seems to think of a "lyrical" language is, to me, run on sentences that lose the point as they ramble. More times than once I had to stop and think "what on earth is the author getting at here?". Second, the strange, rambling plot contrivances that seemed to appear and disappear without resolution...the serial killer? why was Joe's car at the location of the murders (or did the "lyrical" language cause me to miss some key revelation)?, the roller coaster?I love books that tell a good story, and I suspect there is a good story hidden in this one...I just couldn't find it for the waxing poetic.
    more
  • Gearóid
    January 1, 1970
    Sometimes I read a book in e-book format and I really wish I hadread it in paperback just so I can look at it on my bookshelffrom time to time and and remember how much I enjoyed it.This is one of those books.I enjoy Sebastian Barry's books so much.He is such a great storyteller.
    more
  • TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez
    January 1, 1970
    I know a lot of people who weren’t familiar with Sebastian Barry’s work until the publication of the Booker shortlisted The Secret Scripture. Barry, however, has been around for quite some time. He’s written five novels now, a host of plays, and three poetry collections, and he’s collected several awards for his writing including the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Independent Bookseller’s Prize, and the Irish Book Awards Prize for “Best Novel.” Those of us who’re familiar with his work kno I know a lot of people who weren’t familiar with Sebastian Barry’s work until the publication of the Booker shortlisted The Secret Scripture. Barry, however, has been around for quite some time. He’s written five novels now, a host of plays, and three poetry collections, and he’s collected several awards for his writing including the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Independent Bookseller’s Prize, and the Irish Book Awards Prize for “Best Novel.” Those of us who’re familiar with his work know that Barry writes primarily about two families – the McNultys and the Dunnes. The Secret Scripture, the book that immediately preceded this one, revolved around Roseanne McNulty Clear as she neared her one hundredth birthday. On Canaan’s Side, however, which was also shortlisted for the Booker, revolves around a member of the Dunne family. The Dunnes, first heard from in what is probably Barry’s most loved play and the cornerstone of his work, “The Steward of Christendom” are a family of Irish loyalists whose only sin is being on the losing side of the Troubles of 1916-22. “The Steward of Christendom” explores the life of Thomas Dunne, a “Castle Catholic,” and the chief superintendent of the Dublin Metropolitan Police under the British. A widower, Thomas raised one son, Willie, whose story is told in Barry’s first Booker shortlisted novel, A Long, Long Way, and three daughters, Annie, Maud, and Lilly. Annie’s story was told in the beautiful Annie Dunne, and it’s Lilly whose story is told in On Canaan’s Side.As the book opens, eighty-nine-year-old Lilly Dunne Bere is mourning the suicide of her grandson, Bill, who she raised from the age of two, and, as she now finds herself unable to face life without him, she’s writing her memoirs in preparation for her own suicide. She lets us know immediately that she’s come undone with grief:Grief: The feeling of it is like a landscape engulfed in floodwater in the pitch darkness, and everything, hearth and byre, animal and human, terrified and threatened. It is as if someone, some great agency, some CIA of the heavens, knew well the little mechanism that I am, and how it is wrapped and fixed, and has the booklet or manual to undo me, and cog by cog and wire by wire is doing so, with no intention ever to put me back together again....On Canaan’s Side is going to be compared with Barry’s previous book, The Secret Scripture simply because both books feature an elderly protagonist who’s intent on setting down the story of her life. In actuality, other than the above, I didn’t find the books at all alike. Reading On Canaan’s Side was a very different experience for me than reading The Secret Scripture, though I loved both books. And Roseanne McNulty Clear, the protagonist of The Secret Scripture is a very different woman than Lilly Dunne Bere. I’m not usually a fan of the memoirist who’s setting everything down for posterity, but Sebastian Barry is one of the few authors writing today – or any time, really – who can make anything work, and make it work beautifully.The structure of the book is a simple one. It’s divided into seventeen chapters, each chapter narrated by Lilly in more or less linear fashion, and each one marking one more day since Lilly buried her grandson, Bill. The chapters are simply titled – “First Day Without Bill,’ “Second Day Without Bill,” etc., until we reach “Seventeenth Day Without Bill.”Like Roseanne in The Secret Scripture, Lilly is an intelligent, articulate, sensitive, and poetic narrator, who has a fascinating story to tell, though she seems a bit more emotional than Roseanne. A woman who came of age in Wicklow, Ireland during the Troubles that began with the Easter Rising in 1916, Lilly’s fiancé was Tadg Bere, a man who’d known Willie Dunne in Belgium, and who served in the “Black and Tans” after his return home. When Lilly’s father learns there’s a price on Tadg’s head – and by extension, Lilly’s – he arranges for the pair to flee Ireland forever and hopefully, make a new life in the relative safety of the United States, on Canaan’s side.Although Tadg and Lilly have plans in the US, life, as most of us know, rarely conforms to the decisions we’ve made for it. As Lilly and her story move from Chicago to Cleveland to Long Island, Barry makes it clear that Lilly – that none of us, really – can flee from the consequences and repercussions of our history.Although Lilly comes from a background steeped in Irish history, it’s American history (both World Wars, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the civil rights movement, the political assassinations of the 60s) that forms the backdrop of this book, though the book, itself, is intimate and personal and Barry’s touch is light when writing about politics.Having lost almost every man she ever cared about to war, Lilly becomes a symbol of the devastating effects of war on those who are left behind. To Barry’s credit, his strong anti-war message doesn’t feel like a message at all. There’s nothing didactic about this book. Barry is far to empathetic for that. So skillful is Barry in the creation of his characters, and so honest and heartfelt is Lilly’s raw grief that the reader is immediately pulled into her story. And Lilly grieves not only for those she’s lost, but for all those who have been lost, and all those who have suffered losses: Greece, America, Arabia, Ireland. Home places. Nowhere on earth is not a home place. The calf returns to where it got the milk. Nowhere is a foreign place. It is home for someone, and therefore us all.Sebastian Barry, of course, began his career as a poet, and part of this wondrous book’s power lies in the power of Barry’s language. His lyrical prose is filled with hypnotic rhythms, perfect details, and vivid images. He knows exactly what to write to evoke the emotional reaction in the reader he wants:But there was something tugging, tugging at me now, Lilly says at one point, some intimation, like a drop of lemon in a jug of milk, to sour it for the soda bread.This concentration on just the right detail ensures that On Canaan’s Side will be an intense and immersive read, and one in which the most brutal events of the book will be diffused somewhat by a dreadful and beautiful strangeness. Barry, himself, has defended his intense poeticism: If you listen carefully for how people are talking to you in Ireland, in certain districts, it is quite elaborate, there is a strangeness to it. This is, without a doubt, the most beautifully written novel I’ve ever read, and, for all its poetry and lyricism, to its enormous credit, I never found it overwritten. In attempting to convey the depth of her grief at her grandson’s death, Lilly writes: What is the sound of an eighty-nine-year-old heart breaking? It might not be much more than silence, and certainly a small slight sound.Lilly’s voice, in Barry’s sure hand, is a radiant Irish voice. This is Lilly as she begins to describe her small house in Cleveland, Ohio, where she lived in the 1930s:Our little house had a view of the lake, just. You had to crane your neck, and all you saw were factories and jetties, but it was there, the water. The lake had its own aroma, from a hundred ingredients, mixed by the god of that lake. There was great soothing in that smell.And, when remembering the heathery white hills of her Irish girlhood, Lilly, herself, becomes caught up in Barry’s intense lyricism, his poetic cadences:I am writing it, I am writing it, and I spill it all out on my lap like very money, like riches, beyond the dreams of avarice.At one point, Lilly says her heart ...lifted like a pheasant from scrub…its wings utterly opened in fright and exulting. And, when describing the whole of her life, she writes: My years have no width or length, have no dimension at all, just the downturn of a bird’s wings. So quick.Lilly’s story is, primarily, a story of exile, suffering, and downright horror, though it’s shot through with glittering strands of beauty, wonder, and tenderness that tug at the reader’s heart. Sometimes, there are even brief glimmers of happiness. I’m thinking, in particular, of a five-hundred-word sentence that recreates the uphill climb and the downhill rush of a rollercoaster at Luna Park on which Lilly rides with her friend, Cassie Blake and a Cleveland police officer, Joe Kinderman, and also describes how Lilly feels about her friends. I heard Sebastian Barry, himself, read this section, and the power of his words is nothing short of tremendous, making it impossible for a reader with a heart to come away from this book dry-eyed.For the most part, I’ve avoided a plot summary. It would only be fair to let Lilly – and Barry – tell you the details of Lilly’s life. On Canaan’s Side is not a comforting read, and it’s not sentimental. In fact, Barry eschews sentimentality. There are, he says, some Irish, and even more Irish Americans, who cherish a sentimental view of Ireland, one that really has little to do with Ireland’s history, especially the bloodshed of the twentieth century.If you’ve read many reviews of this book, you’ve no doubt read about a plot twist near the book’s end. It’s surprising – not shocking, but surprising – and I think it’s entirely credible. I felt the book was enhanced by its inclusion.Most wrongs are never righted. The so-called “sins of the father” continue to reverberate down the ages and visit tragedies on the sons. Sebastian Barry’s vision, as I’ve interpreted it, is to expose those unrighted wrongs, and, with the healing balm of language begin to bring light into the darkness. He searches out memories, memories in which “a measure of tragedy is stitched into everything if you follow the thread long through.” I don’t believe anyone who reads this book will soon forget Lilly Dunne Bere or the events that made up her extraordinary life. This book affected me like no other ever has. If you love literature, and if you love what literature can do, you need to read this book.5/5Recommended: Without reservation. This is undoubtedly the most beautifully written book I’ve ever read. However, lest I’ve dwelt on the book’s language too long, let me assure you that the story of Lilly Dunne Bere is a compelling one. Barry does not, in any of his books, sacrifice plot for poetry.
    more
  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 Beautiful writing and so descriptive with the narrator a 89 yr. old woman, heartbroken after the suicide of her grandson. Very slow paced though and a lot of back and forth between her early childhood in Ireland and her present life. Don't think I was in the mood for a slow paced book and think this affected my rating.
    more
  • Maria
    January 1, 1970
    I would have finished this book sooner, had I not loved it so much. As I told my friend, I spun the last few pages out like a stick of candy floss, I just could not bear for it to end. But there's no escaping the inevitable, and end it did. I don't think any review of this book from me could do it justice, I just feel I'm not up to the task. And although I loved, loved, LOVED it, I don't know if I understood the ending properly, so leaving that alone altogether. So for what it's worth, then, the I would have finished this book sooner, had I not loved it so much. As I told my friend, I spun the last few pages out like a stick of candy floss, I just could not bear for it to end. But there's no escaping the inevitable, and end it did. I don't think any review of this book from me could do it justice, I just feel I'm not up to the task. And although I loved, loved, LOVED it, I don't know if I understood the ending properly, so leaving that alone altogether. So for what it's worth, then, these are my thoughts and feelings about On Canaan's Side.....(for a really good review, go to Guardian.co.UK/culture/books).I know one could, or maybe should, be able to say this about any book, but with Barry, it really is all about the language - for me, anyway. Although it's a bit of a cliche to say this, his language just transports me. I found the story very interesting anyway, perhaps in part because it is closely related to another of Barry's books - A Long, Long Way - which also got 5 stars from me. But the way he writes is just in a realm all its own. Beautiful, lyrical, atmospheric, evocative, charged with emotion at times - and nobody, but nobody, can do imagery and symbolism as well as he can. In essence, this book explores what has been referred to elsewhere as a rich seam of Irish history for Barry - the lasting repercussions which reverberated through many Irish families for years, following the Irish War of Independence, the First World War, and the Irish Civil War.Our main character, Lilly Bere, is a casualty of these repercussions, and we hear her life story in retrospect, through her own words, in the pages of this book. I read a web review of On Canaan's Side, where the reviewer said she had wept four times while reading it. Me too. Maybe even a couple more. But as you're reading it, you come to realise you're not just crying for the character of Lilly, you're crying for yourself. Because this book resonates with the twin themes of memory and loss. So, as you're reading, you find yourself ruminating, often subconsciously, on the effect of those twin themes on your own life. And, for me, apart from the beautiful writing, that's where the real power of Barry's work lies - in reflecting the reader back to themselves through his characters. I often find myself reading passages over again, because the first time I read them, they were so good, the writing so magnificent, I literally gobbled them up like a hungry man at a sumptuous feast. Sometimes because the writing was just that beautiful, sometimes because the passage was so deeply sad, and sometimes because something in there touched my very heart, I find I have to go back, read more slowly, savour. I hope I haven't bigged up the language in this book at the expense of the plot, because of course, no story - no book, no matter how well written. I think this book will be staying in my mind and my heart for a long time though, andis oneof the few books I know I will enjoy just as much when I return for a reread, someday. Be kind to yourself. Read it.
    more
  • Margo
    January 1, 1970
    How can I do justice to such a wonderfully written book? This is the story of the life of Lilly Dunne. It is full of love, strategy and treachery. This is the first Dunne family book I have listened to but hopefully not the last.The narration by by Grainne Gillis was stunning and added to the sense of quiet dignity of the character.
    more
  • Lakis Fourouklas
    January 1, 1970
    To put it simply: Sebastian Barry writes so beautifully, so poetically, that when I read his books I find myself almost ashamed to admit that I’m also a writer – and a jealous one at that. His prose is so deeply humane and so well-crafted that almost reads like verse; verse that makes you want to cry; no, not from sorrow, but from joy, for having the privilege of reading it. I’m not implying that the subject matters with which the good author is preoccupied are pleasant, quite the opposite, they To put it simply: Sebastian Barry writes so beautifully, so poetically, that when I read his books I find myself almost ashamed to admit that I’m also a writer – and a jealous one at that. His prose is so deeply humane and so well-crafted that almost reads like verse; verse that makes you want to cry; no, not from sorrow, but from joy, for having the privilege of reading it. I’m not implying that the subject matters with which the good author is preoccupied are pleasant, quite the opposite, they float in sadness, yet the way he narrates them do not bring much sorrow to the reader’s heart. He seems, in a magical way, to grab the latter by the hand and lead him on to a journey through the wide paths of history, a history that touches everything and everyone in different ways; personal and impersonal at the same time. This is the story of Lilly Berre, an eighty-nine year old woman, whose grandson Bill just died, and who now just sits and writes down her memoirs, reliving through them a long life full of sorrows and a few touches of joy. The narrator talks in a direct and almost oral way about love and war, about country and home, and about loss, old age and death. And she doesn’t complain about anything, even just a little bit, although she has every right to do so, given the way the fates have treated her. Her memories, despite her age, are crystal clear, as they are deeply engraved on her tortured soul. She remembers a father whom she loved too much, but whose choices have caused her endless troubles but also saved her life. She remembers her first big love, the man with whom she escaped from Ireland to America, just after the First World War, and whose face reminded her of a Van Gogh painting. She remembers her brother, like a hazy picture of times long gone and who died during that very same war. She remembers everything, and everything she writes, like a living testament, even though she says she hates writing. She needs to tell everything, to get it out of her breast, because: “We are not immune to memory.” Even though “the past is a crying child”, as she writes somewhere in this seventeen day long monologue, she never cries: “I am cold because I cannot find my heart,” she’s quick to point out. However, she’s not really cold, she’s just hurt, as she’s lived an eventful life, but nevertheless poor where results were concerned. She worked a lot, she fought hard for a better tomorrow, she spent years and years in fear and whatever she won she lost, whomever she loved she buried. And yet not a single word of complain ever escapes her lips. Lilly is a woman full of patience, one of those unique and rarely met souls that can only feel compassion for the others, and who know how to forgive. One could say that her way of thinking and living sounds kind of fatalistic, and one would be wrong. Her memories are sad, but not bitter, and her memories are her life. Writing them down is what keeps her alive; her resilience is her power. “Tears have a better character cried alone,” she thinks, and that’s why she mourns her loss on her own and in the quiet. And her tears turn into pearls of wisdom and humanity. As Joe, one of the main characters says, we “live in a big box of fear.” Lilly takes this fear and turns it into power; she takes that power and turns it into a story – the story we are now holding in our hands. Absolutely brilliant.
    more
  • SheriC (PM)
    January 1, 1970
    I had a lot I wanted to say about this book, as I had just finished it, but then I got into a long, work-related conversation with a colleague, and now I find my brain mostly empty of thoughts where this book is concerned. That, perhaps, is a good indicator of how deeply affected I was by it. Mostly how I felt, by the end, was as though I was covered in a heavy smothering blanket of depression. Perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps that was the author’s goal in writing this book. When I read “litera I had a lot I wanted to say about this book, as I had just finished it, but then I got into a long, work-related conversation with a colleague, and now I find my brain mostly empty of thoughts where this book is concerned. That, perhaps, is a good indicator of how deeply affected I was by it. Mostly how I felt, by the end, was as though I was covered in a heavy smothering blanket of depression. Perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps that was the author’s goal in writing this book. When I read “literary” novels, this seems to be how I most often feel, with the second most common emotion being impatient annoyance. The latter is most common in the ones that I’m not even able to finish reading. On Canaan’s Side seems to be about grief and loss and the pointlessness of actually making human connections in life, when at the end everybody you loved is gone or has betrayed you in some way. There is some beautiful language and gorgeous descriptions of setting and emotions. The author chose to express some of these in stream-of-consciousness style of run-on sentences that literally went on as long as 1 ½ pages of text. Fortunately, these were mostly confined to the first and last few chapters, with the middle third of the book written in a snappier style that moved the plot and story (such as it was) along in a more tolerable fashion. When I was a teenager, we had a saying that encompassed all the angst of that age: “Life’s a bitch, and then you die”. That’s pretty much how I felt by the end of this book. Hardcover version, purchased as a circulation discard from a Friends of the Library sale. I read this for the 2017 Booklikes-opoloy challenge, for the square Trains, Planes, & Automobiles 14: Read a book that involves overseas travel, or that has a suitcase on the cover. There is a brief description of the main character’s overseas journey from Ireland to America, and two other characters journey overseas for the Vietnam and Gulf wars. Previous updates:6/29/17 182/272 pg: Finally, the pace is starting to pick up. I'm starting to think I'll never be done with this book.
    more
  • Debby
    January 1, 1970
    This is the first book I've read by Sebastian Barry and it just happens to be his most recent book. I will be going back to his first novel and reading his work from the beginning. If On Canaan's Side is any evidence of his craft as a storyteller, I've found myself a new author to follow! storyteller! Spellbinding for sure!On Canaan's Side is the story of Irish immigrant, Lilly Bere. As the story opens, Lillly, now in her 80's, is mourning the recent death of her grandson, Bill. She cannot imagi This is the first book I've read by Sebastian Barry and it just happens to be his most recent book. I will be going back to his first novel and reading his work from the beginning. If On Canaan's Side is any evidence of his craft as a storyteller, I've found myself a new author to follow! storyteller! Spellbinding for sure!On Canaan's Side is the story of Irish immigrant, Lilly Bere. As the story opens, Lillly, now in her 80's, is mourning the recent death of her grandson, Bill. She cannot imagine, nor does she desire to go on living without him. She begins a sort of journal - Day One without Bill; Day Two without Bill. As she writes and pours out her grief on paper, Lilly begins recalling the events of her life as a child and young woman in Ireland and her journey to America with her fiance just after WW1. As Lilly writes daily in her journal, going back and forth between the past and present flawlessly, it's as if she is searching through past events trying to solve some mystery that has brought her to what she is having to face in the present; like tryiing to fine tune a microscope to be able to see something that has never been quite yet clear to her...until Bill's death.This story is so well-writttten and the characters so captivating, that I felt swept into the story. The narrative flows like listening to a riveting Irish ballad. I could not put this book down. Thanks Irene! You were right. A 5-star book for sure!
    more
  • Carrie
    January 1, 1970
    This is the second book I've read by Barry and I am seriously swooning. I'm staggered by his prose. He's one of the few writers I've read who can take the words of our common language, toss them up into the air & by the time they sashay back to earth Magic is Afoot. Is he bending the words to his will, transcribing celestial whispers, or maybe showing off some bad-ass alchemy? Don't know, don't care.All I know is I may not be able to save myself for other books. Barry's writing is too beauti This is the second book I've read by Barry and I am seriously swooning. I'm staggered by his prose. He's one of the few writers I've read who can take the words of our common language, toss them up into the air & by the time they sashay back to earth Magic is Afoot. Is he bending the words to his will, transcribing celestial whispers, or maybe showing off some bad-ass alchemy? Don't know, don't care.All I know is I may not be able to save myself for other books. Barry's writing is too beautiful to read too real to ponder too delicious to consume in polite society. In other words, I can't hold back on the first pass - I'm a glutton for each page and I cram myself full without pause. Then - because it's some kind of magic, I guess - the word feast reassembles and I take my time this time, savoring each exquisite bite.
    more
  • Elaine
    January 1, 1970
    As I neared the end of this novel, I felt, as Lily must have. that her death would also be the end of Willie, Annie Dunne and their father. They lived on only in her memory, Lily being the last of the family to die.Willie's experiences in World War I are told as he lived through them in the first novel of this trilogy, A Long, Long Way. Annie's, told in Annie Dunne. are plans for the future, as well as memories. Lily's are wholly in reminiscences. So brilliantly is each done that you feel as the As I neared the end of this novel, I felt, as Lily must have. that her death would also be the end of Willie, Annie Dunne and their father. They lived on only in her memory, Lily being the last of the family to die.Willie's experiences in World War I are told as he lived through them in the first novel of this trilogy, A Long, Long Way. Annie's, told in Annie Dunne. are plans for the future, as well as memories. Lily's are wholly in reminiscences. So brilliantly is each done that you feel as they do, every pang, every joy, every disappointment. You can see and hear the horrors of the trenches as Willie does, and the quotidian joys and insecurities of Annie's lot in life. As for Lily, who loved so well and lost so much, without complaint, without self-pity, my sorrow and my admiration for her will not soon leave me.
    more
  • Ingrid
    January 1, 1970
    A melancholy Irish story, beautifully written.
  • Sotiris Karaiskos
    January 1, 1970
    According to the Bible, when the Israelites approached the promised land, God told Moses that he was not worthy to enter it, and for this he would simply look at it from afar and die there, as it was eventually happened. Something similar happened to the heroine of this book, a 89-year-old who after a great tragedy that happened to her makes an account of her life and remembers the good and bad moments she lived, her years in Ireland, the people the war deprived her, her forced immigration to th According to the Bible, when the Israelites approached the promised land, God told Moses that he was not worthy to enter it, and for this he would simply look at it from afar and die there, as it was eventually happened. Something similar happened to the heroine of this book, a 89-year-old who after a great tragedy that happened to her makes an account of her life and remembers the good and bad moments she lived, her years in Ireland, the people the war deprived her, her forced immigration to the USA, her loves, those who supported her in the difficult times. But the things that most remembers are those moments when happiness was so close that she could touch it but eventually something was happened and everything was destroyed.Obviously I'm not describing you anything original and special, harking back to earlier times and memories of older people is commonplace in literature and several times created an interesting result, the original and the special, though, is himself the author of this book. In my review for Days Without EndI had pointed out his great writing talent and the so poetic way of writing that makes beautiful almost every phrase, this element also prevails in this book so much that I was able to finish it in short time just because I resisted the temptation to stop in every bit to share with you the sentences that made me particular impression with their beauty. The more emotional plot of the book gives him the opportunity to express even more this tendency, inundating us with special literary touches, without, however, to become excessive or more sentimental than should. Of course all this does not mean that the only thing that gives value to the book is the fact that it is beautifully written, the book is filled with thoughts and concerns about many issues. The experience of immigration, its opportunities and loneliness, the disastrous consequences of the war in the souls and bodies of those involved but also to those who are left behind, the violence of the freedom fighters that do not respect human life, racism and prejudices are some of these issues, which the author treats with a highly thoughtful way. So in the end I can say that this book offers a complete reading experience that offers much to the reader, for this top rating is essential.Σύμφωνα με την Αγία Γραφή όταν οι Ισραηλίτες πλησίαζαν προς τη γη της επαγγελίας ο Θεός είπε στον Μωυσή ότι δεν είναι άξιος να μπει σε αυτή και για αυτό απλά θα την αντικρίσει από μακριά και εκεί θα πεθάνει, όπως και τελικά έγινε. Κάτι ανάλογο συνέβη και στην ηρωίδα αυτού εδώ του βιβλίου, μία 89χρονη που μετά από μία μεγάλη τραγωδία που της συνέβη κάνει έναν απολογισμό της ζωής της και θυμάται τις καλές και τις κακές στιγμές που έζησε, τα χρόνια της στην Ιρλανδία, τους ανθρώπους που της στέρησε ο πόλεμος, την αναγκαστική της μετανάστευση προς τις ΗΠΑ, τους έρωτες της, εκείνους που της συμπαραστάθηκαν στα δύσκολα. Αυτό, όμως, που περισσότερο θυμάται είναι εκείνες οι στιγμές που η ευτυχία ήταν τόσο κοντά που μπορούσε να την αγγίξει αλλά τελικά κάτι συνέβαινε και όλα καταστρέφονταν.Προφανώς τίποτα πρωτότυπο και ξεχωριστό δεν σας περιγράφω ως τώρα, οι αναπολήσεις παλαιότερων εποχών και οι αναμνήσεις ηλικιωμένων ανθρώπων είναι κάτι συνηθισμένο στη λογοτεχνία και αρκετές φορές δημιουργούν ένα ενδιαφέρον αποτέλεσμα, το πρωτότυπο και το ξεχωριστό, όμως, είναι ο ίδιος ο συγγραφέας αυτού του βιβλίου. Στην κριτική μου για το days without end είχα επισημάνει το σπουδαίο συγγραφικό του ταλέντο και τον τόσο ποιητικό τρόπο γραφής του που κάνει όμορφη σχεδόν κάθε φράση, αυτό ακριβώς το στοιχείο κυριαρχεί και σε αυτό το βιβλίο τόσο πολύ που μπόρεσα να το τελειώσω σε σύντομο χρονικό διάστημα μόνο και μόνο γιατί αντιστάθηκα στον πειρασμό να σταματάω κάθε λίγο για να μοιραστώ μαζί σας τις προτάσεις που μου έκαναν ιδιαίτερη εντύπωση με την ομορφιά τους. Η περισσότερο συναισθηματική υπόθεση του βιβλίου, μάλιστα, του δίνει και την αφορμή για να εκδηλώσει ακόμα περισσότερο αυτή του την τάση, πλημμυρίζοντας μας με ιδιαίτερες λογοτεχνικές πινελιές, χωρίς, όμως, πότε να γίνεται υπερβολικός ή περισσότερο συναισθηματικός από ότι πρέπει.Φυσικά όλα αυτά δεν σημαίνουν ότι το μοναδικό πράγμα που δίνει αξία στο βιβλίο είναι το γεγονός ότι είναι όμορφα γραμμένο, κάθε άλλο, το βιβλίο είναι γεμάτο και με σκέψεις και προβληματισμούς για πολλά ζητήματα. Η εμπειρία της μετανάστευσης, με τις ευκαιρίες και τη μοναξιά της, οι καταστροφικές συνέπειες του πολέμου στις ψυχές και τα σώματα αυτών που συμμετέχουν αλλά και σε αυτούς που μένουν πίσω, η βία των διαφορών αγωνιστών που δεν υπολογίζουν την ανθρώπινη ζωή, ο ρατσισμός και οι προκαταλήψεις είναι μερικά από αυτά τα ζητήματα, τα οποία ο συγγραφέας αντιμετωπίζει με έναν ιδιαίτερα εύστοχο τρόπο. Οπότε στο τέλος μπορώ να πω ότι αυτό το βιβλίο προσφέρει μία ολοκληρωμένη αναγνωστική εμπειρία που προσφέρει πολλά στον αναγνώστη, για αυτό η άριστη βαθμολογία είναι επιβεβλημένη.
    more
  • Vivian Valvano
    January 1, 1970
    I loved the narrator, Lilly. (She was born Lilly Dunne, daughter of the unforgettable James Dunne, Chief Supt. of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, originally created in Barry's THE STEWARD OF CHRISTENDOM; she was thus the sister of Willie, Annie, and Maud, known to readers of STEWARD and some of Barry's previous novels.) I loved the way the narrative was set up - as 17 days of Lilly mourning her grandson, with her memories of her past reflected on during those days. I especially loved the way Bar I loved the narrator, Lilly. (She was born Lilly Dunne, daughter of the unforgettable James Dunne, Chief Supt. of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, originally created in Barry's THE STEWARD OF CHRISTENDOM; she was thus the sister of Willie, Annie, and Maud, known to readers of STEWARD and some of Barry's previous novels.) I loved the way the narrative was set up - as 17 days of Lilly mourning her grandson, with her memories of her past reflected on during those days. I especially loved the way Barry allowed Lilly to have outstanding powers of observation and description. Some of "her" physical descriptions are breathtaking; some of her ruminations on memory/loss/love/Ireland/America are breathtaking. Hers is an outstanding characterization, and I comment Barry for creating such a woman character. However, I could not credit this novel with the same accolades that I had for THE SECRET SCRIPTURE. This is not Lilly's fault! Unfortunately, Barry strained too much in trying to get some convolutions of the plot to fall into place; ultimately, a few things are simply too far-fetched. (Mrs. Wolohan's brother, a Senator, is killed in 1968?? And when it comes to miscegenation, perhaps Barry should let American authors handle the intricacies.) But I still gave 4 stars - because of Lilly and her voice and her spirit and her love. One thing that may "do the novel in" in the U. S. is the fact that if one does not have firm, clear knowledge of early 20th-century Irish history, one can get lost in the midst of Lilly's father being in the Dublin Metropolitan Police, Tadg being in the Black and Tans, Tadg's father being in the Irish Volunteers . . . and all things that those, and attendant facts, portend.
    more
  • Anna
    January 1, 1970
    “What is the sound of a eighty-nine-year old heart breaking?”Lilly’s heart breaks with the sound of her beloved doll’s china face crashing into a thousand pieces against the stone floor. When the novel begins, she is an elderly woman, who after the death of her grandson sits down to write down the story of her own life. Her account spanns over 80 years, from Ireland to America, through her childhood, marriage, motherhood, gain and loss, joy and sorrow, hope and despair - just as lives do, but he “What is the sound of a eighty-nine-year old heart breaking?”Lilly’s heart breaks with the sound of her beloved doll’s china face crashing into a thousand pieces against the stone floor. When the novel begins, she is an elderly woman, who after the death of her grandson sits down to write down the story of her own life. Her account spanns over 80 years, from Ireland to America, through her childhood, marriage, motherhood, gain and loss, joy and sorrow, hope and despair - just as lives do, but hers, is a story shadowed by loss. She finds loves and friendships, but she is never allowed to enjoy her happiness for a long time. The men in her life, her father, brother, fiancée, her husband, son and grandson each for a different reason take a decision that changes Lilly’s life, and leaves her heartbroken. So it is a story about loss, but it also is a story about endurance. A tribute to all those that remain, the indirect offers of every conflict, those that lose their loved ones in the name of ideas and higher values and who, as Lilly does, have the strength to every time their hearts break, pick themselves up and go on.It is beautifully written, engaging and touching story. I enjoyed it a lot, and as I suspect Sebastian Barry wanted me to, I dutifully reflected on the meaning and purpose of taking or sacrificing lives in the name of political conflicts and ideas.
    more
  • Petra
    January 1, 1970
    Lovely. Lilly Bere tells her story, looking back on her 89 years, in the 17 days after the burial of her grandson. This is a sad story that says much more than Lilly is telling. I really enjoyed Lilly's voice, her outlook, her lovely descriptions & observations. Throughout her life, Lilly is confronted with hope, betrayal, love, fear and always she carries on. Sebastian Barry tells enough of her story to entrance but leaves some details to be filled in by the reader's imagination. The combin Lovely. Lilly Bere tells her story, looking back on her 89 years, in the 17 days after the burial of her grandson. This is a sad story that says much more than Lilly is telling. I really enjoyed Lilly's voice, her outlook, her lovely descriptions & observations. Throughout her life, Lilly is confronted with hope, betrayal, love, fear and always she carries on. Sebastian Barry tells enough of her story to entrance but leaves some details to be filled in by the reader's imagination. The combination is just right for Lilly's story.I will be looking into other books by this author.
    more
Write a review