A Novel

Large Print - 2013
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER In the National Book Award-winning Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann thrilled readers with a marvelous high-wire act of fiction that The New York Times Book Review called "an emotional tour de force." Now McCann demonstrates once again why he is one of the most acclaimed and essential authors of his generation with a soaring novel that spans continents, leaps centuries, and unites a cast of deftly rendered characters, both real and imagined. Newfoundland, 1919. Two aviators - Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown - set course for Ireland as they attempt the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean, placing their trust in a modified bomber to heal the wounds of the Great War. 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 - despite the fact that, as famine ravages the countryside, the poor suffer from hardships that are astonishing even to an American slave. New York, 1998. Leaving behind a young wife and newborn child, Senator George Mitchell departs for Belfast, where it has fallen to him, the son of an Irish-American father and a Lebanese mother, to shepherd Northern Ireland's notoriously bitter and volatile peace talks to an uncertain conclusion. These three iconic crossings are connected by a series of remarkable women whose personal stories are caught up in the swells of history. Beginning with Irish housemaid Lily Duggan, who crosses paths with Frederick Douglass, the novel follows her daughter and granddaughter, Emily and Lottie, and culminates in the present-day story of Hannah Carson, in whom all the hopes and failures of previous generations live on. From the loughs of Ireland to the flatlands of Missouri and the windswept coast of Newfoundland, their journeys mirror the progress and shape of history. They each learn that even the most unassuming moments of grace have a way of rippling through time, space, and memory. The most mature work yet from an incomparable storyteller, TransAtlantic is a profound meditation on identity and history in a wide world that grows somehow smaller and more wondrous with each passing year.
Publisher: Waterville, Maine : Thorndike Press, 2013
Edition: Large print edition
ISBN: 9781410459015
Branch Call Number: LP MCCANN
Characteristics: 463 pages ; 23 cm


From the critics

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Feb 13, 2016

“The elaborate search for a word, like the turning of a chain handle on a well. Dropping the bucket down the mineshaft of the mind. Taking up empty bucket after empty bucket until finally, at an unexpected moment, it caught hard and had a sudden weight and she raised the word, then delved down into the emptiness once more.” McCann may be describing part of the writing process of one of his characters; but surely he is also revealing his own practice, because he does, indeed, find some very nice and surprising words, not uncommon words but common words uncommonly used. Some examples:
--“She ached her way into bed.”
--“Perhaps the reason for her trip was to unhem herself from routine.”
--“The branches of the trees knit the wind.”
--Early on an overcast day, “the rumor of morning hangs faint on the sky.”
--During a storm, “The wind was demented.”
--A flock of geese descend and “blanket onto the water.”
--In a vacant lot, “the wrapper of a chocolate bar sparred against the wind.”
There are also wonderful phrases and images that make one admire his writing, but gradually his “artfulness” begins to pall, to feel false, a little too self-consciously clever, and we become to aware of the writer, which draws us away from the writing and what is being said. For example: The geese “soared in . . . [looking] as if they were pulling the color out of the sky.” Or here: A toaster pops. “Out hop the slices, like pole-vaulters or prison escapees.”
At times McCann writes with an intensity, a ferocity of words and brilliance of depiction, that often swept me along under a rush of speed, energy, and implacability like one of those massive waves that must threaten and thrill a Pacific surfer. Readers who liked his “Let the Great World Spin” will find a similar use of intertwined but separate “stories” here and will probably approve of this device (with which I have no objection); but this novel, for all the power of its language, the vividness of its descriptions, the poignancy of its subject, still adds up to less than the sum of its parts. And it left me regretful, somewhat melancholy, and surprisingly unmoved.

Nov 26, 2015

Selected for the Logan Central Tuesday Book Club in 2016. For a full list of 2016 selections, see the Logan Central Tuesday Book Club list.

Jul 31, 2015

Book group choice

Oct 30, 2014

'Transatlantic' takes you back and forth between America and Ireland, at three different times periods. The author is a master blending fact and fiction in remarkable prose. The George Mitchell section, giving his thoughts in the lead up to the Good Friday Peace Accords was my favorite part.

Sep 07, 2014

Well written prose and imagery make this book worth reading. The author weaves a compelling story through generations on both sides of the Atlantic.. If you are looking for action, look elsewhere. However this novel is worth the time investment.

Aug 27, 2014

In the early chapters, I wasn't sure where the author was heading, but he did bring it all together very nicely and intelligently. He handled his characters with warmth and caring, while acknowledging their flaws.

Not as ambitious or flamboyant as Let the Great World Spin, one of my favorite novels, but still very worth reading.

Jul 16, 2014

Wonderful read

Jun 28, 2014

Pointless rambling.

Jun 17, 2014

Colum McCann's imagery is beautiful... describing the wind through a room as "interested in the curtains" .... lovely writing!

Jan 31, 2014

Excellent. Different stories, all with Ireland in the background, foreground and in-between ground, that intertwine to some degree, but which are painted with such immediacy you can almost smell the peat fires burning.

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PimaLib_LindaG May 08, 2015

“Cynicism is easy. An optimist is a braver cynic.”

PimaLib_LindaG May 08, 2015

“The tunnels of our lives connect, coming to daylight at the oddest moments, and then plunge us into the dark again. We return to the lives of those who have gone before us, a perplexing möbius strip until we come home, eventually, to ourselves.”

PimaLib_LindaG May 08, 2015

“We seldom know what echo our actions will find, but our stories will most certainly outlast us.”

Jun 17, 2014

"The ceilings were low everywhere but the library, as if to force a man to bend down everywhere except near books."
(P. 77, TransAtlantic by Colum McCann)


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Jun 17, 2014

From 1845 to 2012, the connections among a wide-ranging group of families - especially the women, whose lives seem to cross the years and touch each other.


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