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TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

TransAtlantic (2013)

by Colum McCann

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1,5051608,229 (4.02)346
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. Newfoundland, 1919: Aviators Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown set course for Ireland as they attempt the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. 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. New York, 1998: Leaving behind a young wife and newborn child, Senator George Mitchell departs for Belfast, to shepherd Northern Ireland's notoriously bitter and volatile peace talks to an uncertain conclusion. They each learn that even the most unassuming moments of grace have a way of rippling through time, space, and memory.… (more)
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» See also 346 mentions

English (157)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (160)
Showing 1-5 of 157 (next | show all)
First, I will openly admit I am a sucker for anything WWI or bi-plane era. When the description of the book started with a 1919 Atlantic non-stop flight I was hooked. Transatlantic is a forth coming book from writer Colum McCann and is centered around both Ireland and America.

The book is divided into two sections. The first section contains three seemingly unrelated stories. The first of a transatlantic flight of two World War I veterans. The second of Fredrich Douglass' trip to Ireland and the third about American Senator George Mitchell's brokering of peace between the IRA and England. All three stories are historical fiction with the major events all being factual.

The second part of the book ties all the events of the first part together through the lives of four generations of women. Events covering the US Civil War, the tenth anniversary of the first transatlantic flight, death, and a letter bring all parts of the book together in a remarkable way.

McCann does a remarkable job of both story telling and tying stories together. The first part of the book reads more like history than a novel and in particular is quite educating seeing Ireland through the eyes of Douglass and the realization that slavery is not always just about color. One hundred and fifty years of history molded perfectly into two hundred and sixty pages covering events and more importantly human lives and feelings.

This book is well worth the read. I expected to enjoy the transatlantic flight story and was unsure if that would be enough to draw me into the complete book, but as it turned out the rest of the book exceeded my expectations for the flight story. ( )
  evil_cyclist | Mar 16, 2020 |
It almost feels wrong to give so many 5-star reviews lately, but books like this reinforce my love for reading. ( )
  bcpeterson727 | Dec 4, 2019 |
This book is about three journeys across the Atlantic Ocean, widely separated by years, and the interconnections they wrought. At first it seems like the first transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to Ireland, the visit of Frederick Douglass to Dublin and Cork, and Senator George Mitchell's efforts to bring about peace in Northern Ireland are totally unrelated. However, for one family these events had ripples across the decades.

The story, though fictional, concerns only three Transatlantic journeys between North America and Ireland; Only three of so many over the centuries. Christopher Columbus made several trips across the Atlantic. Imagine connections happening across travels in the east, across the Pacific, or over land between continents instead of oceans. Sometimes the interconnections, lives that are touched, are not even recorded. The permutations are infinite - not even trackable by genealogists, no matter how they try. We are all one humanity, connected in myriad ways.

Lily's Irish great-great-grandson, Tomas, wanted to make a mathematical model "of where he came from: Newfoundland, Holland, Norway, Belfast, London, St. Louis, Dublin. A zigzag line all the way back to Lily Duggan." He thought the diagram might look like a nest - "bits and pieces, leaves and branches, crossing and crisscrossing, years of time lapse."

"We have to admire the world for not ending on us." ( )
  steller0707 | Aug 25, 2019 |
The sheer pleasure of reading this book washed over me, page by page. The prose is lovely, the story engaging, the plotting perfectly curved to come around again to the beginning. Through all of it is the occasional thought which puzzles me, and it is all worth another thought.
For example, on page 52, "The essence of intelligence was to know when,or if, to expose even the heart's deep need for instruction." ( )
  MaryHeleneMele | May 6, 2019 |
This is a wonderful story with Ireland as the centrepiece of a narrative that crosses several generations. It starts in 1919 with the transatlantic flight of Alcock and Brown and their landing in Ireland. This is followed by the lectures given by Frederick Douglass in 1845-1846 in Dublin and elsewhere to promote the abolition of slavery worldwide. In 1998, American Senator George Mitchell is the lead negotiator in the talks that end the troubles in Northern Ireland culminating in the Good Friday accord.
So, this sets the stage for the other characters who although minor in the grand scheme are impacted and affected by the three famous people in interesting ways that we follow for the rest of the story. Lily Duggan, Emily Ehrlich, their children, grandchildren and an undelivered letter provide a fascinating tell in America, Newfoundland and Ireland.
The characters are really well developed against the historic background, wonderful descriptions of weather, internal monologues, tragedy, sadness, grief and joy. ( )
1 vote MaggieFlo | Apr 29, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 157 (next | show all)
"But a book as ambitious and wide-ranging as this is bound to be a little inconsistent, and its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses."
added by bookfitz | editNew York Times, Erica Wagner (Jun 20, 2013)
"His new novel, TransAtlantic, likewise dramatises Irish-American encounters, and once again features elements of nonfiction, and a gravity-defying central metaphor."
added by bookfitz | editThe Guardian, Theo Tait (Jun 1, 2013)
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)
"A masterful and profoundly moving novel that employs exquisite language to explore the limits of language and the tricks of memory."
added by bookfitz | editKirkus Reviews (Apr 15, 2013)
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No history is mute. No matter howmuch they own
it, break it, and lie about it, human history refuses to
shut its mouth. Despite deafness and ignorance, the
time that was continues to tick inside the time that is.

-Eduardo Galeano
This novel is dedicated to Loretta Brennan Glucksman.
For Allison, and Isabella too.
And, of course, for Brendan Bourke.
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The cottage sat at the edge of the lough.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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