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TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

TransAtlantic (2013)

by Colum McCann

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Showing 1-5 of 137 (next | show all)
Long, dense, with flashes of brilliance. I have to agree with the reviewer who questioned the use of sentence fragments: rhythmically, this felt a bit like hacking through woods with a machete, and for no reason that I could really follow. McCann wanted to get so much in here that maybe it was just expedience, shorthand. Still it's an important, ambitious book, aiming high and sometimes achieving it. Women rightly hold the story together and ground it, but Douglass is also insightfully drawn. At its best, one gets the sense of the multitude of meanings flickering back and forth over the water over many years, which sometimes seems to justify its structure and length. All that said, it's hard not to love someone who loves people and history so much. ( )
  wreichard | Apr 24, 2015 |
It took a long time to work out the somewhat tenuous connection between the different time frames and historical events in this book. McCann is a lyrical writer, his words are evocative, his characters are fully rounded, but I found myself impatient to get to the end of the book from about half-way through. It just didn't hold my interest. ( )
  earthsinger | Apr 10, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I have not read this book yet but I'm looking forward to it because I love Colum McCann's other work. I'm saving this for a long winter weekend when there's nothing else I need to do so I can sit and relax and enjoy it.
  herzogbr | Feb 26, 2015 |
The Short of It:

Non-fiction elements mingle with fiction in this Irish-American tale which begins in 1919 with the first nonstop transatlantic flight.

The Rest of It:

If you’ve read McCann’s work before, you may recognize the format of this novel, which feels like a collection of interconnected stories. The story opens with Alcock and Brown’s first transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to County Galway. Their mission is riddled with challenges, of which, eventually lead to a crash landing. From the title, you’d think that the book is about this trip alone but no, after just a short section on the flight itself, McCann moves on with his story which focuses on Frederick Douglass’s visit to Ireland just as the Great Famine begins to fully take its hold. From there, we meet Lily Duggan, a maid who is inspired to create a new life for herself in America.

This story spans many years and goes back and forth as it’s told and I know for some, including myself, this doesn’t always work for me. In fact, as soon as I realized I’d be jumping back and forth in time, I audibly groaned. But honestly, McCann’s handles it so well, that it never seemed to bother me at all and his style of writing, which consists of short, clipped, sentences made the reading experience quite a pleasant one. His writing creates a sense of urgency which gives the story that “unputdownable” quality that so many of us look for in a book.

There’s a little bit of history, which prompted many in my book club to look up additional information and the fictional parts were well-done and engaging. I read it in just one sitting, which is not something I often do but the story is constructed in such a way that it’s hard to find a good place to set the book down. A good problem to have, if you ask me.

Have you read Transatlantic? It came out some time ago and I immediately added it to my Kindle after reading Let The Great World Spin, but for some reason it just sat there, unread. Such a shame because I really enjoyed it.

For more reviews, visit my blog: Book Chatter. ( )
  tibobi | Jan 22, 2015 |
Colum McCann is a consummate stylist. Of that, there’s little doubt. But he sometimes paints with prose the way a pointillist paints with oils – and this style can be exhausting if ingested in large chunks. When you come away from one of his portraits, you’re left with a distinct image of the character he’s describing – perhaps in exactly the same way you’re left with a distinct image after studying a pointillist’s painting up close and over a long period of time. You’re also exhausted.

Sentences are often short. Punctuation, sparse. Like this. With no waste of words. But sometimes, abrupt. Truncated – and idiosyncratically so. Not to mention dense.

And speaking of a “tangled skein of connections” (p. 260), the connective tissue between these chapters and books (since the novel is divided into three of the latter) is, at times, a tad difficult to decipher, given the apparent nonlinearity of the novel itself. A graphic family tree spanning the several generations might’ve helped me in my understanding of the various stories and their interconnectedness.

As for the occasional Oops! … we find on pp. 25 – 26 “(i)t is one of the many things that brings (sic!) a smile to Alcock’s lips…”. Then, on p. 252, “(t)here is no seal, no insignias, no discernible shape to what may lay (sic!) inside.” And am I wrong in suggesting that “him” is the wrong case in “(s)he used to say that she was younger than him…” on p. 261 and elsewhere in the book?

But for a larger critique – and I offer this one of an author as accomplished as Colum McCann clearly is with a great deal of hesitation – it seemed to me that there was often a tad too much ‘telling’ and not enough ‘showing.’ I’d like to think this impression was largely a function of my own faulty concentration rather than any shortcoming on McCann’s part – but for the time being, and until I read another one of his books, I’ll let it stand.

What I will say in favor of this novel is that McCann captures the peculiar sadness of the ‘Irish story’ perfectly and without that blast of pyrotechnics, sentimentality or even kitsch that too often colors everything from the Great Famine to the Troubles -- and right up through those present St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Boston and New York that seem to drown in green beer, drunken antics and self-pity. For this, I’m even willing to overlook his one mention of ‘the gloaming.’

I’m sorry I can’t conjure up as much enthusiasm for TransAtlantic as I did for Let the Great World Spin, but we can’t all hit the bull’s eye all of the time. And maybe, just maybe, McCann's target was too refined for my once-sturdier powers of discernment, now in a state of inexorable atrophy.

On a parting note, I must say that a couple (Aoibheann and David Manyaki) introduced only at the very tail-end of the book is one of the most delightful I’ve ever found in literature – and that it's worth the whole ‘cost’ of the book just to meet them. While they may never be as memorable as some of Dickens’s more notable characters, they’re anything but caricaturesque. In fact, they’re very real. And present. And recognizable, however idealized.

Brooklyn, NY

( )
  RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 137 (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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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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