Books and Bites

Facilitator, Barbara McKay
Wednesday, October 16
1 pm

On Canaan's Side

by Sebastian Barry

In his new novel, “On Canaan’s Side,” the Irish writer Sebastian Barry returns to the case of the fictional Dunne family, Irish loyalists caught on the losing side of the Troubles of 1916-22. Willie Dunne, a young Irish volunteer in the British Army during World War I, is the protagonist of a previous Barry novel, “A Long Long Way” (2005), which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Willie’s father, chief superintendent of the Dublin Metropolitan Police under the British regime, is the tragic hero of Barry’s most celebrated play, “The Steward of Christendom” (1995).

Now, Barry is telling the tale of Willie’s sister, Lilly Bere, who in her 80s describes a lifetime spent “on Canaan’s side” — in America, that is.

Lilly came of age in Ireland during the Troubles that started with the blood sacrifice of the Easter Rising in 1916 and culminated in the black farce of civil war. She married Tadg Bere, a pal of her brother’s and a veteran of the trenches who served in the “Black and Tans,” those infamous irregulars used by the British in the waning days of their rule. When neighbors tip off Lilly’s ex-policeman father that Republican gunmen plan to murder Lilly and her husband for disloyalty, the pair slip out of Ireland to exile in the United States. Review by Peter Behrens.

Bites and Books will run on the 3rd Wednesday of each month. No book club in December.

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