A Novel by Colum McCann
Audiobook Narrated by Geraldine Hughes
2013 / 10 hours 46 minutes
If I had to describe Colum McCann’s TransAtlantic in one word, I would call it melancholy. If I was not involved in the Man Booker shadow project, BookerMarks, I would leave my review at melancholy, lament over the fact that the book just did not speak to me as his award winning Let the Great World Spin did and pick up another book to read. Alas, I am participating in BookerMarks so a review I must do!
TransAtlantic like Let the Great World Spin is a series of narrative stories somehow connected. In Let the Great World Spin each story is tied to the others, one way or another, through a tight rope walker in New York City. Each story in TransAtlantic is similarly connected, one way or another, through “something”. The best part of the book is realizing what the connection central to each of the stories happens to be.
So what does Fredrick Douglas, the first transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to Ireland, and former Senator George Mitchell have in common? McCann is able to link these people and events together, but he does so in a melancholy, lack luster manner.
In Let The Great World Spin, McCann is able to pull you in to each character and each story such that you care about each person and hate when the story moves on to different characters. In TransAtlantic, McCann was unable to make me connect with the characters. The first story in the book concerns the first transatlantic flight and I did enjoy the character building and the narrative in this story. However, when McCann moves on to the rest of the stories the narrative becomes tedious and I just did not care for the next several characters. I became so bored with the third narrative I quit reading the book entirely only to get it back out to try and finish it as part of the Booker long list. Finally getting through the first part of the book and moving into the second, some of the characters repeat and story lines build. However, as I had never felt anything toward the characters to begin with the emotion the characters had toward their situation in life fell on unsympathetic ears. The narrative was just, well, melancholy and depressing.
McCann’s Let the Great World Spin won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (2011), National Book Award for Fiction (2009), Ambassador Book Award for Fiction (2010), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fiction (2009), NAIBA Book of the Year for Fiction (2010). It was completely overlooked by the Man Booker and the Costa – both prestigious awards in the United Kingdom/Ireland.
My question is did TransAtlantic get the long list nod only because Let the Great World Spin was ignored by the two main literary prize boards governing the United Kingdom/Ireland?
My guess would be that TransAtlantic will get the nod to move on to the short list. I have not read enough of the other books to know if it deserves it. I would find it a disappointment if this book wins the Booker.