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.
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"Barry's skills are evident as he tenderly unspools Lilly's story, with a fine eye for intimate moments, but...the schematic way each additional emotional blow falls relentlessly, tugging at the reader's heartstrings with diminishing force." - Publishers Weekly
"Starred Review. Lilly reveals herself to be a woman of uncommon sense and boundless compassion.A novel to be savored." - Kirkus Reviews
"[A]lthough a measure of tragedy is stitched into everything, at its center it is really a story of the profound if not permanent bonds of friendship and love that underpin a tumultuous existence." - Booklist
"With his extraordinary talent for condensing the tangential sorrows and solaces of a life, Barry continues to unpick the threads of Irish history through what Lilly calls our own little stories, without importance. His empathy is his most valuable gift." - The Daily Telegraph (UK)
"This concentration on isolating tiny fragments of experience and apprehension makes for an intense and immersive read, one in which brutal events are cast in a diffuse light that gives them an almost mythic quality. But the narrative's dreamlike qualities do not eclipse Barry's determination to scrutinise the less travelled byways of history and to give a voice to their buffeted, battered but nonetheless enduring victims." - The Guardian (UK)
"[T]his shifting rhythm unbalances the book. Barry's core theme, with the loyalist family bereft as "all the world [her father] knew had gone on fire", lends the early sections a scorching passion. ... Yet too much then rattles by too fast: great sorrow, little room." - The Independent (UK)
"Memories aren't always connected by reason, but Barry proves more adept than most at twisting their threads together with narrative panache." - The Scotsman
"The novel is an elegy, not just for the dead victims of America's self-styled and self-imposed "policing" of the world, but also an elegy for Ireland's ability to tear itself apart across the generations." - The Independent (Ireland)
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Sebastian Barry was born in Dublin in 1955 and educated at Trinity College, Dublin. Academically, he has held posts as an Honorary Fellow in Writing at the University of Iowa (1984) and Writer Fellow at Trinity College, Dublin (1995-6). His early plays include Boss Grady's Boys (1990) and The Steward of Christendom (1995), Our Lady of Sligo (1998) and Hinterland (2002). Whistling Psyche (2004), and The Pride of Parnell Street (2007), are two interweaving monologues. His latest play is Tales of Ballycumber (2009).
Barry has also written poetry, including the collections The Water-Colourist (1983) and Fanny Hawke Goes to the Mainland Forever (1989); a novel for children, Elsewhere: the Adventures of Belemus (1985); and short novels, Time Out of Mind/Strappado Square (1983). His ...
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