Why it Will Win: TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

Why_It_Will_WinOver the course of the next eight days, leading up the Man Booker shortlist announcement on September 10th, each one of our eight bloggers will champion a different nominated title and explain Why it Will Win the coveted prize.

Today, Mike justifies why Colum McCann’s TransAtlantic has the wings to win it all.

Much of what I have to say about TransAtlantic is covered in my review here, but in this series we have a specific goal — to explain Why It Will Win.

Awkward: I don’t think TransAtlantic will win. The second half of the book is a bit of a slog (see review), and it pulls down a story that starts out fast-paced and exciting.

As a result, allow me to focus not on Why It Will Win, but on Why It WOULD Win (if it did).


1. Historical novel. Real people in (semi-) fictional situations. Last year’s winner shows the popularity of the device.

2. Looking at TransAtlantic as a series of novellas, the sections on Alcock and Brown, and Frederick Douglass, are riveting. Either could have expanded to a novel longer than The Testament Of Mary, and more deserving of the prize.

3. The history of Lily and her descendants is really quite fascinating.

Unfortunately, it is the pace that the story of #3 is presented that really bogged down this book for me, and I suspect may do the same for the judges.

I hope to return to these thoughts when I have read more of the Longlist and have a better idea of what McCann is up against.

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