By Colum McCann
(Random House Trade Paperbacks, Paperback, 9780812981926, May 2014, 336pp.)
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.
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