Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Prix Femina, TransAtlantic is an ambitious and moving novel from the award-winning author of Let the Great World Spin
In Let the Great World Spin, the winner of the National Book Award, Colum McCann thrilled readers with a 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.
In 1845, a black American slave lands in Ireland to champion ideas of democracy and freedom, only to find a famine ravaging the countryside and the poor suffering from hardships that astonish even him. In 1919, two brave young airmen emerge from the carnage of the First World War to pilot the first non-stop transatlantic flight, from Newfoundland to the west of Ireland. And in 1998, an American senator crosses the ocean to shepherd Northern Ireland’s notoriously volatile peace talks to an uncertain conclusion.
Taking these stories as his point of departure, Colum McCann weaves the lives of Frederick Douglass, John Alcock and Teddy Brown, and Senator George Mitchell into a tapestry that is provocative, ambitious and unforgettable. Intertwined with them are the lives of a series of remarkable women whose personal stories are caught up in the swells of history. Can we pass from the new world to the old? How does the past shape the future? The bestselling TransAtlantic is a profound meditation on time, space and memory and the most mature work yet from an incomparable storyteller.
In 1919, two British veterans pilot a Vickers Vimy from Newfoundland to Ireland, becoming the first men to fly across the Atlantic, taking "the war out of the plane." In 1845, escaped American slave Frederick Douglass comes to Ireland at the start of the famine on a speaking tour, staying with Irish Quakers and inspiring their maid to seek her future in America. In 1998, decades into the Troubles, American Senator George Mitchell brokers the Good Friday Peace Accords. Darting in, past, and through these stories are generations of women, including the maid's descendants, Irish, American, Canadian, with sons lost to the civil wars of both continents. This is what interests McCann: lives made amid and despite violence; the hidden braids of places, times, and people; the way the old days "arrive back in the oddest ways, suddenly taut, breaking the surface." A beautiful writer, if overly partial to three-word phrases ("Kites of language. Clouds of logic") that can start to call attention to themselves, McCann won the National Book Award for Let the Great World Spin, which also linked disparate stories. This time though, while each story is interesting, the threads between them especially in the last section, which features the maid's great-granddaughter aren't pulled taut enough by shared meaning.