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Publisher's Summary

At once epic and intimate, the story of Lilly Bere 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, from Dublin at the end of the First World War to Lilly's life in the new world of America, it is a novel of memory, war, family ties, and love.

©2011 Sebastian Barry (P)2011 W F Howes Ltd

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Story

For me .... disappointing

I found it very hard to listen to. I was not at all engaged with the story. The narration was pleasant enough - but the book was not to my likeing. I think it is a personal preference (or lack thereof) rather than a bad book. However, I will not be rushing off to buy more Sebastian Barry books. Remember, my taste is not the same as everyone else - so do not be afraid to buy and try if the synopsis appeals.

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  • Overall
  • Declan
  • 08-25-11

Beautifully written story

Sebastian Barry really is one of the great authors of our age, coming that fine tradition of Anglo Irish writing his wordcraft is simply beautiful. This book is well deserving of it's Booker nomination and must be a potential winner.

As with his previous book, The Secret Scripture, this book deals with memories of an elderly Irish woman looking back over her life.. including acts of terrorism, murder, explosions, deceit, multiple wars, racism, emigration and more.. the book spreads the story across Ireland and America and sheds a light on the oft forgotten side of Irish history, the "loyal Irish".

This historical novel wraps several real events (eg the Cleveland Gas Explosion of 1944) into the story which really captures the interest. It reminds me somewhat of Dennis Lehane's A Given Day, although it is more personal and less epic in it's sweep..and significantly shorter!

The story is read well by an Irish American actress who sucessfully captures the voice of the young and old characters alike.

If you are fan of Sebastian Barry's books this is definitely for you, if you a new to him it is a great introduction, familiarity with US or Irish history is not a prerequisite.. just jump in and enjoy!

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Jane Counter
  • 02-22-13

Worth persevering

Unlike a couple of the reviewers above, who were instantly captivated by this book, I found it hard going at first, and almost gave up. The first hour or more is very descriptive and it's difficult to get a handle on what is going on, or has happened in the past. Yes, it's beautifully written, and certainly beautifully read, and if that's enough for you, you will indeed love it from the beginning. However, by the second hour, when some sense of a story begins to develop, it gets a lot better, and with some idea of where it's going you can appreciate the writing even more. I enjoyed it very much by the end, and consider it definitely worth persevering with.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Maddy
  • 02-11-12

A good listen

This is beautifully, if a bit exuberantly, read, with excellent characterisation and accents. It is a short book to deal with a whole long lifetime and so is superficial in many ways. I didn't feel that I ever knew much about the internal life of the central character, just that she had loved and lost and endured and was a good cook. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it as a good story, although I preferred The Secret Scripture which I read as a book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Book Lover
  • 01-22-17

Eloquent, lyrical narrative

Where does On Canaan's Side rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

One of the best. The narration is superb; relaxed and lilting.

What did you like best about this story?

It's full of surprises and so well written. It starts as a rather rambling account of disparate events, as recalled by Lily who's mourning the death of her grandson. The tale covers some 80 years of family history and I particularly enjoyed the way in which the listener is left to join the dots, but by bit. It's a story of total delight, beautifully crafted and well told.

What does Grainne Gillis bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Calm, measured narration; she is the voice at the heart of the story.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Many.

Any additional comments?

First book I've listened to by this author; it's powerful and I was totally engrossed so will happily look for more. Covers so many universal themes; love, loss, racism, redemption.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Patrick
  • 08-31-11

Achingly, poetically beautiful

I realised I loved this within minutes, told friends about it and then hoped it wasn't going to disappoint, it didn't. Dazzling images, breathtaking apercus , a great story and joy and sadness rolled into one as if it was not fiction but the diary of a soul.I am happy to have read it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Patricia
  • 09-20-16

Overblown and meandering tale

I loved The Secret Scripture and thought this would be similar but it's a real disappointment. It just never gets going and I found myself caring less and less about the main character as the story wandered along.
Also got irritated with the overly theatrical narration.
Listened right through to the end in the hope it would improve.
It didn't.

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  • PT
  • 05-18-15

A story full of tragedy.

This is a story where the beauty of the language is never quite supported by the storyline. The main character, Lily, is one of life's victims but somehow I could never really feel sympathy for her. I persevered with the book because of the lyric quality of the prose, which I enjoyed and the narration was good, however it was not a book I found emotionally fulfilling.

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  • Amelia
  • 07-14-13

Sadness Joy Loss & gain wrapped in word poetry

What can I say about Sebastian Barry that hasn't already been said. I came to this book having read The Secret Scripture and finding it beyond wonderful.
This is a story of Lilly told when she was an old lady and remembering clearly and not so clearly at times her life and loves and great losses. She travelled through so much of the history of the time being affected by it although she was a gentle person who never seemed to harm anyone. It was so movingly told and the narrative by Grainne Gillis was just right. I liked the way that sometimes the author hinted at and did not totally reveal everything letting the reader interpret for themselves. I was sad to say goodbye to Lilly at the end but glad I shared her journey.

  • Overall
  • Cat Lady
  • 07-22-12

I loved this!

This book was recommended by one of my friends for our next book group meeting and I was hooked from the start. The quality of the narration added greatly to the atmosphere and the story proved to be the perfect companion for long car journey from England to Scotland. I can't wait to download his other novels.

  • Overall
  • Elizabeth Davies
  • 03-27-12

Outstanding ....

........... in every way. This writer is so gifted; memorable characters, clever plot, recognisable emotions and brilliant story telling. I was captivated from start to finish.