NEHS Common Reader

The Common Reader for 2017-2018 will be On Canaan's Side by Sebastian Barry, published in 2011. The novel’s complexity will challenge NEHS members; it is presented through a creative narrative via the voice of Lilly Bere, who “recounts the events of her life as though mesmerized by the vivid incompleteness of a remembered dream” (The Guardian, 2011). Spanning multiple decades from World War I through the Gulf War, the text leads readers to understand not only Lilly and her family, but history, warfare, family, life, and death. The evocative opening lines provide a glimpse of the power of Barry’s poetic language: “Bill is gone. 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” (Barry 3).

The novel will engage NEHS seniors graduating in spring 2018 as the text for the competitive scholarship process. Students interested in vying for the scholarships must read the text and respond to a prompt provided by NEHS; the prompts will be available November 2017. Scholarship essays will be due by noon, CST, on Tuesday, January 16, 2018.

More About Sebastian Barry, Irish playwright, poet, novelist:

Good Reads: Sabastian Barry

Faber & Faber: Sabastian Barry

On Canaan's Side