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TransAtlantic (2013)

by Colum McCann

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,5661628,375 (4.01)347
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)
  1. 60
    Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín (Othemts)
  2. 52
    Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (suniru)
  3. 10
    A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle (Othemts)
  4. 10
    The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (zhejw)
    zhejw: Both books explore human connections made across multiple generations and across oceans while ultimately concluding in Ireland.
  5. 00
    Voyage of Mercy: The USS Jamestown, the Irish Famine, and the Remarkable Story of America's First Humanitarian Mission by Stephen Puleo (Othemts)
    Othemts: Both books focus on the relationships between the US and Ireland, with the visit of Frederick Douglass to Ireland a key feature of each book.
  6. 00
    Everyone is Watching by Megan Bradbury (charl08)
  7. 14
    A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Othemts)
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» See also 347 mentions

English (159)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (162)
Showing 1-5 of 159 (next | show all)
How could the Booker Prize judges give the 2013 prize to [b:The Luminaries|17333230|The Luminaries|Eleanor Catton|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1384015794s/17333230.jpg|24064531] and not to TransAtlantic? I am dumfounded and my trust on the Booker Prize selection will be forever shaken.

TransAtlantic explores the connection between ordinary lives and historical moments, and how this interaction defines our personal histories. I have never before read a work of historical fiction that accomplishes this so tenderly and elegantly.

The characters, both real and fictional, are rendered so genuinely, there is not a moment when I doubt their authenticity, be it historical or emotional; something I find lacking in many works of historical fiction. But, again, to try and assign this book to a literary genre will diminish its scope. It is an incredible work of literature, one of those books that only come along every so often and will remain with me always.

It is not an emotionally easy book, and it defines the expression “character driven as opposed to plot driven”. The first 3 stories seem disconnected – almost as independent short stories – until halfway into the book, when we read about 4 generations of women in the same family. Mother, daughter, grand-daughter and great-granddaughter are linked in their almost genetic predisposition to loss due to the historical moment of their lives. However, for a book that proposes to accomplish so much, the stories are never contrived, and the narrative remains poetic and natural.

Other reviewers have compared it to another book I love: [b:Cloud Atlas|49628|Cloud Atlas|David Mitchell|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1406383769s/49628.jpg|1871423]. Like Cloud Atlas, Transatlantic experiments with an unusual nonlinear plot format and structure, but while in Cloud Atlas the connections between the story lines where philosophical, in TransAtlantic Colum McCann keeps the connections more intimate and emotional. But I don’t intent to say that I prefer one or the other, as I will remain always thankful to both David Mitchel and Colum McCann for the experience of reading their books, and the feeling that I was exposed to another layer of human comprehension.

TransAtlantic is however the best book I have read in a long time, and I want to now push it on everyone.

PS: I just realized that TransAtlantic did not even make the Booker’s short list in 2013. I think I will try and read the other books that did make the shortlist and see how I feel about them. ( )
  RosanaDR | Apr 15, 2021 |
Colum McCann tells weaves stories of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Immigration, the abolition movement, and women's rights in the threaded stories that make up this book.

I found the first half of this book heavy lifting. The individual stories were interesting, but I kept wondering what the book was really about. Things clicked in the second half of the book, but I cannot say that my reading experience was enjoyable or overly enlightening. ( )
  etxgardener | Jan 22, 2021 |
I loved Let the Great World Spin so I was excited to receive an advanced copy of TransAtlantic through a goodreads giveaway. Although it was a bit of a slow start McCann's new novel did not disappoint.

The novel was narrated by four generations of women who were each connected in some way to the following men who crossed the Atlantic to Ireland: Brown and Alcock, early aviators, Frederick Douglas, a former slave turned activist and George Mitchell, an American politician involved with the Irish peace talks. McCann beautifully weaves together fictional narratives of historical people with fictional characters. TransAtlantic was both an interesting and enjoyable read. ( )
  baruthcook | Aug 26, 2020 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 159 (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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Epigraph
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
Dedication
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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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.

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