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TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
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TransAtlantic (2013)

by Colum McCann

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85413210,501 (4.14)261
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Showing 1-5 of 130 (next | show all)
I listened to this as an audiobook and really enjoyed it. The touching on the personal lives of historical figures intertwined with an Irish / American family really worked for me. It was fascinating. George Mitchell's ruminations on tea made me laugh out loud but it was also very sad in parts. ( )
  infjsarah | Sep 20, 2014 |
Irish historical fiction woven through the stories of 4 generations of women. Serendipitously read whilst visiting USA Civil War sites. Enjoyed the Frederick douglass section the most. Would make good book club discussion. ( )
  celerydog | Aug 8, 2014 |
Gorgeous writing, but the story kind of lost its oomph at the end. ( )
  eenerd | Jul 30, 2014 |
Disclosure: I'm Irish by heritage, if not by nationality.

I like how I just kept checking off the tags just now (culture, racism, war, etc.), but that's what this book is: Any story that begins with Frederick Douglass visiting Ireland in the 1840s, when the genocide of the potato famine was really starting to crank, is going to have all of these elements and more.

Chronologically, this story starts with Douglass in 1845, two aviators in 1919, and Sen. George Mitchell of Maine in 1998, each of whom crosses the Atlantic from America to Ireland. They are seeking continued freedom, fame and glory, and peace, respectively. The book begins with the 1919 thread, then jumps back to 1845, and then jumps forward to 1998. The rest of the book weaves in and out and around from these three points.

In addition, four generations of women appear at various points in the mens' stories, beginning with Lily Duggan, an Irish maid in the house where Douglass is visiting, and ending with Hannah in 2011. At first, and as usual, the men take center stage as they go about their important works. But then the women begin to emerge with their own stories, which are a much more thorough picture of the times they lived in.

The language is uniformly beautiful in this one. It can take awhile to get into McCann's sometimes telegraphic style, but it's worth it. He also uses the European style of indicating dialog with an em-dash instead of "quotes," until he switches in the very last chapter--interesting. The novel doesn't have a straight, linear, "this happened and then this happened" structure. It's better described as a collection of loosely connected vignettes.

I loved the historical aspects of this book--a black man visiting Ireland, ice farming in the U.S. Midwest, a field hospital in the Civil War, the peace process leading to the Good Friday Agreement (that aimed to end The Troubles-yeah, no), pictures of city and country life, etc. Where the book is less strong is in the interior lives of the characters. They aren't as deep as they could be. But I'm very glad I read it. Recommended for history, historical fiction, and language buffs. ( )
  Pat_F. | Jul 25, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I waited all too long to read Trans Atlantic, and when I finally did read it I realized why Colum McCann is so highly praised. His writing is lyrical, luminous, and somehow leaves spaces in all the right places. He's like Toni Morrison in his unerring ability to leave out what the reader doesn't need. The result is spare and nearly weightless prose that somehow manages to support all the big topics, like race, and gender, and love. Trans Atlantic is a deeply compassionate book that links separate stories that are tenuously connected across time and continents. The sections on Frederick Douglass and his stay in Ireland were the reason why I wanted to read the book in the first place, and they are beautifully done. But the book ends on a note of reconciliation I just couldn't have predicted. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. ( )
  bibliolisa | Jun 19, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 130 (next | show all)
Amazon Best Book of the Month, June 2013: McCann’s stunning sixth novel is a brilliant tribute to his loamy, lyrical and complicated Irish homeland, and an ode to the ties that, across time and space, bind Ireland and America. The book begins with three transatlantic crossings, each a novella within a novel: Frederick Douglas’s 1845 visit to Ireland; the 1919 flight of British aviators Alcock and Brown; and former US senator George Mitchell’s 1998 attempt to mediate peace in Northern Ireland. ... The language is lush, urgent, chiseled and precise; sometimes languid, sometimes kinetic. At times, it reads like poetry, or a dream. Choppy sentences. Two-word declaratives. Arranged into stunning, jagged tableaux. Bleak, yet hopeful. ... The finale is a melancholy set piece that ties it all together... McCann reminds us that life is hard, and it is a wonder, and there is hope. --Neal Thompson
added by JSWBooks | editAmazon.com, Neal Thompson (pay site) (Jun 1, 2013)
 
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Epigraph
Geen enkele geschiedenis is sprakeloos.
Hoezeer ook geannexeerd, gebroken en belogen,
de menselijke geschiedenis weigert haar mond te houden.
Ondanks doofheid en onwetendheid blijft de tijd die was,
tikken binnen de tijd die is.

-Eduardo Galeano
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De cottage stond aan de rand van het meer.
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A tale spanning 150 years and two continents reimagines the peace efforts of democracy champion Frederick Douglass, Senator George Mitchell and World War I airmen John Alcock and Teddy Brown through the experiences of four generations of women from a matriarchal clan.… (more)

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