In the National Book Award-winning Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann thrilled readers with a marvelous high-wire act of fiction that The New York Times Book Review called "an emotional tour de force". Now McCann demonstrates once again why he is one of the most acclaimed and essential authors of his generation with a soaring novel that spans continents, leaps centuries, and unites a cast of deftly rendered characters, both real and imagined.
Newfoundland, 1919: Two aviators - Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown - set course for Ireland as they attempt the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean, placing their trust in a modified bomber to heal the wounds of the Great War.
Dublin, 1845 and ’46: On an international lecture tour in support of his subversive autobiography, Frederick Douglass finds the Irish people sympathetic to the abolitionist cause - despite the fact that, as famine ravages the countryside, the poor suffer from hardships that are astonishing even to an American slave.
New York, 1998: Leaving behind a young wife and newborn child, Senator George Mitchell departs for Belfast, where it has fallen to him, the son of an Irish-American father and a Lebanese mother, to shepherd Northern Ireland’s notoriously bitter and volatile peace talks to an uncertain conclusion.
These three iconic crossings are connected by a series of remarkable women whose personal stories are caught up in the swells of history. Beginning with Irish housemaid Lily Duggan, who crosses paths with Frederick Douglass, the novel follows her daughter and granddaughter, Emily and Lottie, and culminates in the present-day story of Hannah Carson, in whom all the hopes and failures of previous generations live on. From the loughs of Ireland to the flatlands of Missouri and the windswept coast of Newfoundland, their journeys mirror the progress and shape of history. They each learn that even the most unassuming moments of grace have a way of rippling through time, space, and memory.
The most mature work yet from an incomparable storyteller, TransAtlantic is a profound meditation on identity and history in a wide world that grows somehow smaller and more wondrous with each passing year.
©2013 Colum McCann (P)2013 Random House Audio
"This novel is beautifully hypnotic in its movements, from the grand (between two continents, across three centuries) to the most subtle. Silkily threading together public events and private feelings, TransAtlantic says no to death with every line." (Emma Donoghue)
"A masterful and profoundly moving novel that employs exquisite language to explore the limits of language and the tricks of memory...epic in ambition...audacious in format." (Kirkus Reviews)
"A beautiful writer... This is what interests McCann: lives made amid and despite violence; the hidden braids of places, times, and people; the way the old days ‘arrive back in the oddest ways.’" (Publishers Weekly)
I hardly dare disagree with all the rave reviews, but this book takes me back to college assignments to read excellently written books that bored me out of my skull. I can't be sure if the problem is the narrator's repetitive, choppy rendition that rolls through every phrase and sentence at the same pace or if the pace of the writing itself is the same throughout. I suspect the problem is the narrator and plan to read the text instead.
The research is meticulous and accurate, the writing as precise as you would expect from McCann. This book lacks the deep involvement with each character that Let the Great World Spin had. I read about each character from a distance, more like a newspaper report racing through events. In a novel, I want to live with the characters, be right on the ground with them rather than peering down from above.
Geraldine Hughes captured each voice PERFECTLY. McCann tells a story of four generations of women whose lives are woven into the fabric of Irish history. It is never preachy or predictable. He tells a story like a poet or even a painter using words like brush strokes. Maybe an even better analogy is song because in the voice of Ms. Hughes the book has a lyrical quality to it. Meanwhile, far more than a simple family history, Transatlantic is almost an elegy, a meditation, a memoir or reflection on grief, loss, war, freedom, pilgrimage. There aren't words to describe the beauty of this book because McCann himself would have to write them.
Which seems to be major theme here. The small, quiet conversations, chores, choices and memories of 3 generations of a northern Irish family. Mostly about the women and how hard luck shaped all of their lives. I listened to the lovely Irish cadences of the narrator on a Long car ride and found this story surprisingly compelling and was sad to leave the characters behind when it ended. Loved the device of "what's in the secret letter" near the end and the realization that it wasn't the letter that mattered or brought any luck to Hannah but the people she met because of the letter who made the difference in her life.
Really enjoyed this one - McCann expertly weaves the historical narratives together into a seamless saga that keeps the reader interested throughout.
This is a compelling, action packed book which highlights moments in history that stand as individual stories in their own right but are connected through their transatlantic history. Starting with the first plane flight from Canada to Ireland and concluding with George Mitchell and his work on the Irish peace process it is well written and fascinating.
Irish generational saga
Colum McCann is a wonderful writer and the beautiful writing in TransAtlantic compares very well with his Let the Great World Spin. The opening chapter - the flight - is as poetic as DeLilllo's World Series baseball chapter in Underworld. As far as the story, it is similar to The Son by Phillip Meyers, which is a Texas generational saga. TransAtlantic is better.
Fabulous! A good reader can make the book even more enjoyable, and Ms. Hughes certainly did that for me.
Lotte because of her interesting life.
Good prose/ language use
Had to abandon it in the third section, as the stories were just too depressing
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