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Transatlantic [Hardcover]

Colum McCann
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Jun 2013

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.

Praise for TransAtlantic
“A dazzlingly talented author’s latest high-wire act . . . Reminiscent of the finest work of Michael Ondaatje and Michael Cunningham, TransAtlantic is Colum McCann’s most penetrating novel yet.”O: The Oprah Magazine
“One of the greatest pleasures of TransAtlantic is how provisional it makes history feel, how intimate, and intensely real. . . . Here is the uncanny thing McCann finds again and again about the miraculous: that it is inseparable from the everyday.”The Boston Globe
“Ingenious . . . The intricate connections [McCann] has crafted between the stories of his women and our men [seem] written in air, in water, and—given that his subject is the confluence of Irish and American history—in blood.”Esquire
“Another sweeping, beautifully constructed tapestry of life . . . Reading McCann is a rare joy.”The Seattle Times
“Entrancing . . . McCann folds his epic meticulously into this relatively slim volume like an accordion; each pleat holds music—elation and sorrow.”The Denver Post

Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (4 Jun 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400069599
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400069590
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16.9 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)

More About the Author

Colum McCann, originally from Dublin, Ireland, is the author of five novels and two collections of stories and has won numerous international literary awards for his writing. His film Everything in This Country Must was nominated for a short-film Oscar in 2005. Zoli, Dancer and This Side of Brightness were international bestsellers and his latest novel, Let the Great World Spin, won the 2009 National Book Award. His fiction has been published in twenty-seven languages. Colum McCann lives in New York.

(Photo credit: James Higgins)

Product Description


Praise for Let the Great World Spin: A blockbuster, groundbreaking, heartbreaking, symphony of a novel ... No novelist writing of New York has climbed higher, dived deeper Frank McCourt An exceptional performance by a writer whose originality and profound humanity is evident throughout this highly original and wondrous novel Douglas Kennedy, Independent A giant among us - fearless, huge-hearted, a poet with every living breath Peter Carey One of the greatest ever novels about New York. There's so much passion and humour and pure life-force on every page that you'll find yourself giddy, dizzy, overwhelmed Dave Eggers --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description



--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Irish American 11 July 2013
Column McCann has written a terrific book of great Irish-American symbiosis. A combination of the people from the land he came from and loves, and the new America that he inhabits. What we have is a positive recollection of the people, stories and the Irish heritage that is celebrated. Freedom and War are the overriding stories.

The story begins in 1919, with the planning and actual nonstop transatlantic flight by two British airmen, Alcock and Brown, who flew from Newfoundland to Galway in their old bomber. This is an exhilarating story and flight. Along the way we meet a journalist, Emily Ehrlich, and her daughter, Lottie. They have an up close meeting with Alcock and Brown, as Emily is covering their flight. We move on to the visit of the great black man, Frederick Douglass, as he stomps through Ireland in 1845, during the Great Famine, lecturing about his autobiography, without a worry about the racism he faces back in the United States. We meet Lily Duggan, who was a maid at the home of Douglass's host. And, then, my favorite of the stories, George Mitchell and his time in 1998, negotiating a truce between England and the Irish Republic. Mitchell is a new father in his second marriage, and every two weeks he flies fromhis home in New York City to Ireland and then to Washington, DC. He gathers information, talks to all the involved parties, and then flies home to New York for a few days, where he starts the traveling again. We learn of is life in this time and the people he meets and greets, and one of these people is Lottie.

In the second portion of the book, these women, Emily, Lottie and Lily have a more profound impact, as they are the features of the rest of the story. These women tie all of the stories together.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Always precise and insightful in his descriptions, and so in tune with his settings that they seem to breathe with his characters, Irish author Colum McCann uses three different plot lines set in three different time periods to begin this new novel, and all three plots are connected intimately to Ireland. In the process, he also creates a powerful sense of how men and women, no matter where they start out, may become so inspired to reach seemingly impossible goals that they willingly risk all, including their lives, to achieve success, often in new places, away from "home." Always, however, they remain connected to their pasts.

The imagery of flight which reappears throughout the novel comes from events which take place in Book One, set in 1919. John "Jack" Alcock and Arthur "Teddy" Brown, real characters, are readying themselves to become the first pilots to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, non-stop, in less than seventy-two hours. Both men, veterans of the First World war, want a clean slate, "the obliteration of memory." By making a few adjustments to the Vickers Vimy they know so well, "they [will be] using the bomber in a brand-new way: they were taking the war out of the plane, stripping the whole thing of its penchant for carnage," and opening whole new worlds of possibility. When the two aviators take off, a local photographer, Lottie Erlich, persuades Brown to hand-carry a letter written by her mother Emily to a family in Cork. (The Ehrlich family will eventually connect all the major plot lines throughout the book, and the letter will become a motif which develops further.) As the Alcock-Brown trip in this open-cockpit plane begins, the reader becomes totally involved in the excitement and danger. For Alcock and Brown, "The point of flight. To get rid of oneself.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful tale told wonderfully! 5 Sep 2013
Simply the best of this year's exceptional Man Booker Long List of the 10 that I have read thus far. The style and communicativeness of McCann's Transatlantic is sumptuous and enchanting; and the story is magnificent and consuming. Told through the fascinating experiences and insightful perceptions of a line of, we soon learn, strong family members and significant figures, all who have excelled by and through crossings of the Atlantic during the past 100 years. Complexity and simplicity intertwine to both dare and surprise the reader of these linked tales, which make up this truly sublime novel. My absolute favourite line in the book is: `We have to admire the world for not ending on us.' - truly moving, truly sublime. I thoroughly recommend McCann's Transatlantic.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Written with the head, not the heart 19 Aug 2013
By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition
Ireland has long had a close connection with America. People have emigrated from one to the other and back again. Families straddle the ocean and Irish politics takes place in Boston and Washington as much as in Dublin. Transatlantic is the story of that relationship, played out at both a global and a personal level.

We have famine in Ireland, coffin ships, anti-slavery movement, the American Civil War, the first Transatlantic flight, and the Northern Ireland Peace Process. These are depicted as stand-alone short stories or character pieces. Having lived through it, the portrait of Senator George Mitchell's chairing of the peace talks was moving. Mitchell came across as a kind and decent man at the time and this is given expression in a genuinely lovely fictional memoir. But this is balanced against an overly long section of Brown and Alcock's flight - albeit a section that did convey the magnitude of the challenge. And the section following anti slavery campaigner Frederick Douglass as he visits Ireland to raise funds for the cause is really dull. This is a pity because the premise of a reluctant hero who would rather live the high life like his former plantation owners is intriguing.

Running through all the stories, we discover four generations of a family: Lily, Emily, Lottie and Hannah. They have their own compelling stories that have varying levels of involvement in the politics or news events of the day.

The writing is technically good; the plotting is tight; and the premise is wide ranging and well thought out. Yet there is something missing. It's as though Transatlantic has been written without soul. It feels like an academic exercise at times, written with the head and not the heart. This doesn't mean Transatlantic is a bad book; parts of it are excellent.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Very poor, it is a book which fails to hold the reader's attention after a very few pages.
Published 14 days ago by Riccardo
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow
This book has literally blown me way.
I have just finished reading it for the first time and intend to start again. Read more
Published 1 month ago by sitges
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Nice writing style but story feels a bit jointed
Published 2 months ago by Paul O'Flynn
4.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful book
I love this book, it manages to entwine seamlessly beautiful lyrical writing with true historical facts, it stays with the reader long after the book is finished and leaves you... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Gemma Conlon
5.0 out of 5 stars Challenge, tragedy, endurance and love intensely portrayed
Colum McCann makes very effective and innovative use of a rich vocabulary, deployed often in short staccato semi sentences, almost poetic stanza, to paint detailed impressions. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Geoff Crocker
1.0 out of 5 stars Unbearable
I could not bear this book. I was excited picking it up having really enjoyed Let the Great World Spin, but I found it excessively sentimental, the different stories too tenuously... Read more
Published 2 months ago by RB
5.0 out of 5 stars exceptional and haunting
Not just a well written book but a clever one, well constructed one, beautiful haunting, interesting, written from a great angle, so many clever references smoothly inserted ... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Tania Beatty
3.0 out of 5 stars Important topic in our time
An ambitious, comprehensive project. Well written, but the structure of this novel could be improved. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Charlotte E. Aske
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful read
Truly beautiful prose weaves this faction together in a wonderful novel; my first McCann book but it certainly won't be my last
Published 4 months ago by Kevin
5.0 out of 5 stars TransAtlantic is fantastic
A very clever and engrossing book - the way the 3 stories intertwine is just fantastic and the detail throughout is amazing, it is written so beautifully and the poetic way that... Read more
Published 4 months ago by sheila
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