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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Irish American
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...
Published 14 months ago by prisrob

versus
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Written with the head, not the heart
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,...
Published 13 months ago by MisterHobgoblin


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Irish American, 11 July 2013
By 
prisrob "pris," (New England USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: TransAtlantic (Hardcover)
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. It seems simple enough, however, the stories are wonderful and fulfilling. The writing is superb, and we are drawn into the sense of history. It is not until the second half, however, that the stories come to the fore, in the days and nights of the lives of these women. Colum Mccan is a skillful writer, his words come to life, jump off the pages. I was not satisfied enough, however, something seemed to be missing, a little morsel that was left unsaid, but, maybe that is just me.

Recommended. prisrob 07-11-13
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "If your life does not flash before your eyes, does that mean you've had no life at all?", 26 May 2013
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: TransAtlantic (Hardcover)
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. That was the reason enough to fly."

The second plot line reverts to 1845-46. Frederick Douglass, a black slave from the United States, has arrived in Dublin to visit his Irish publisher, Richard Webb. He is in Ireland because that is the land of Daniel O'Connell, the Great Liberator, and he hopes the Irish will "open themselves to him," too. He hopes "to raise just a single hat, but eventually that hat would raise the heavens. He would go forth as a slave no more." . Known as "the Black O'Connell," Douglass eventually meets with his idol, Daniel O'Connell. In Cork he also meets Lily, a maid, who becomes the progenitor of the Ehrlich family that will eventually report on the flight of Alcock and Brown in 1919, and continue throughout the later parts of the novel.

The third plot in Book One, set during the two weeks leading to Easter, 1989, bring to life the almost insurmountable challenges of George Mitchell, former Senator from Maine and now Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, as he pushes to secure the peace among the factions in Northern Ireland, before Easter, his deadline. Despite the fact that we all know the outcome, McCann's descriptive prose in this section is so intense and driven that it is impossible to stop reading. Mitchell elicits sympathy as he tries to keep everyone in line and focused on the end result.

All the fictional characters become involved in major and minor world events peopled here with real characters; sometimes attempt what seems impossible; and eventually discover where "home" really is for each of them. As always, McCann's descriptions give new life to sometimes ordinary events. Filled with insights and uniquely developed themes, this novel shows McCann at his most inspirational best.
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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
This review is from: TransAtlantic (Hardcover)
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 (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: TransAtlantic (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. And unlike some commentators, I think it coheres into a whole. It just doesn't quite sustain the interest and the choppy format, zipping between times and events adds a further barrier to sustained reading. It's just a bit easy to set down and watch Big Brother instead.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars contrived, 25 Aug 2013
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This review is from: TransAtlantic (Kindle Edition)
I enjoyed some of the early parts of this novel despite the annoying habit the writer has of writing a succession of very short sentences. Some of his descriptions struck me as trying to be clever and he seemed to be making too much effort to show how much research he had done. It follows a common struure these days of trying to tie together seemingly disparate historical stories. By about two thirds through I had really had enough of the contrived story and annoying style. I decided. To skim. Read. The rest.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars - A 'Fair' Read, 11 Aug 2013
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This review is from: TransAtlantic (Kindle Edition)
While this book is not my usual fare, I chose it because it has been listed for the Manbooker prize and also it was on sale at 99p. I find that the Kindle has broadened my reading material; I'm choosing to read genres that I never would have before. But I really struggled to read this novel and I honestly didn't enjoy it at all. I read for entertainment and I was far from entertained. The prose is too 'highbrow' for me, I guess I should just stick to my thrillers, romances, psychological thrillers et al.

The three obscure stories that were all interwoven, really didn't gel together for me. The stories were literally worlds apart and their relationships to each other were far too tenuous and flimsy for my liking.

In its favour, I did sort of enjoy the piece about Senator George Mitchell brokering the peace process in Northern Ireland. I'm a child of the sixties and I've grown up with the troubles, I'm 30 miles south of the border and I suppose I suffer from 'troubles fatigue' because its dragged on so long, but this piece ( while a product of McCann's imagination but with help from Mitchell) really opened my eyes to the struggle those leaders participating went through to broker a deal and I salute each and every one of them.

I guess I'm too much of a 'simple' reader to enjoy this literary work and it just wasn't my cup of tea.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars wonderful writing but weak tale, 26 July 2013
By 
Lotta Continua (Doncaster, South Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: TransAtlantic (Kindle Edition)
Colum McCann writes beautiful prose and this book is no exception.Precise and concise description underpins a story that explores the links between the US and Ireland with a hint of the complexity of the relationship. as the final third pulls together the stories it describes acutely the experience of growing old and losing what has been built up.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars, 2 July 2014
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This review is from: TransAtlantic (Kindle Edition)
Nice writing style but story feels a bit jointed
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4.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful book, 1 July 2014
By 
Gemma Conlon (Dublin, Dublin, IE) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: TransAtlantic (Kindle Edition)
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 thirsty for more
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5.0 out of 5 stars Challenge, tragedy, endurance and love intensely portrayed, 28 Jun 2014
By 
Geoff Crocker (Bristol UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: TransAtlantic (Paperback)
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. Intensive research and powerful imagination create compelling accounts, for example of exactly what it felt like for Alcock and Brown, exposed to the elements in their first transatlantic flight in a flimsy plane. McCann does the same for Frederick Douglass’s antislavery campaign, Lily’s experience of nursing in the dreadful conditions of makeshift civil war hospitals, John Ehrlich’s ice block business, George Mitchell’s management of the peace process. Death repeats often. McCann forcefully conveys the brutal shock of tragedy, leading on to stoic endurance through the female generations he traces. It’s gripping, convincing, and provokes intense thoughtful and emotional reader reaction.
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TransAtlantic
TransAtlantic by Colum McCann (Paperback - 24 April 2014)
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