On Canaan's Side

Barry, Sebastian

  14 Reviews

Arriving in America at the end of WW1 with Irish history snapping at her heels, Lilly Bere has quite a story to tell. Along with her mensfolk, she must navigate life in a country that over the decades that follow will have its own wars to contend with.

Beautifully narrated with poignant characters and its broad sweep of 20th century history, this fictional memoir is a book to savour. [Larger font]

Comments from Groups

All thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated this book, especially the descriptive and poetic writing. Whangarei 004

Our favourite this year. Highly recommended. Auckland 172

We had a good discussion...There was comment that it felt like the author had a list of things he wanted to mention and fitted the story around them. Christchurch 001

This book was difficult to get into but became gripping as it progressed. An excellent portrayal of women from a male author. Beautiful language. Taupo 006

We agreed it had poetically descriptive text but the book as a whole was lacking emotion. Nelson 063

Sebastian Barry gave such a powerful and intimate perspective of an 89-year-old woman retelling her life. Wellington 041

Most thought an amazing but rather sad life, covering such a long time. We felt it seemed like a woman writing, spot on. Auckland 027



NAP 016
The group found this to be a very sad story and are looking forward to 'happier' themes in our next book. Several appreciated the prose, imagery and reminders about 20th century events. Mostly positive feedback and a book worth reading.
WANG 005
Lovely worded phrases. Enjoyable.
UPHU 002
Our members found this quite a sad story, but found the tale Lily told of her life from the early 20th century until her 'death' at the end of the century quite absorbing. It is still a big question mark as to whether she died or not. We enjoyed the writing and the Irishness of the story. It was an enjoyable read but not altogether memorable.
Enjoyed by some. Others did not like the writing style.
AUCK 199
The usual lively discussion. Everyone agreed that Sebastian Barry writes exquisitely, and most agreed with Raymond Huber's insightful notes. Only one member was unhappy about the ending.
Wide ranging discussion on family links, war, death and hope from this book. Discussion on how the author wrote from the female perspective and, being male, did well.
AUCK 277
Some thought the book was too meandering and dreary, others enjoyed it and learned some interesting things.
AUCK 100
A beautifully written story, which showed the futility of war and the impact it has across generations. Recommended.
WELL 001
We all enjoyed this very much. We had earlier read 'A Long Long Way', which is one reason we chose another book by this author. Very well written - we thoroughly recommend it to other groups.
UPHU 001
All enjoyed the "Irishness" - she maintained her Irishness over all the decades through thick and thin. Clever title. So very sad, like so many immigrants looking for the promised land. Didn't really see it as "antiwar", although it did emphasise the sadness and "uselessness" of war.
Everyone enjoyed this book. The imagery and the language used by the author was delightful and we all agreed that the author painted wonderful pictures with words. The story was very clever with great skill being demonstrated in the way in which he wove all the threads of the novel together. A thoroughly enjoyable book. Recommend it to all.
Mostly enjoyed although sad.
WELL 156
Opinions were mixed. Most liked the book, some liked it very much, and one didn't like it at all. Several mentioned they felt parts of the story were implausible. I think everyone found it a very sad book. But the majority decision was that it was a good book and well worth reading.
CHCH 378
Some of the group found this book hard to get into but once you mastered this it was a great story.