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TransAtlantic: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 4, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (June 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400069599
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400069590
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.7 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (517 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, June 2013: McCann’s stunning sixth novel is a brilliant tribute to his loamy, lyrical and complicated Irish homeland, and an ode to the ties that, across time and space, bind Ireland and America. The book begins with three transatlantic crossings, each a novella within a novel: Frederick Douglas’s 1845 visit to Ireland; the 1919 flight of British aviators Alcock and Brown; and former US senator George Mitchell’s 1998 attempt to mediate peace in Northern Ireland. McCann then loops back to 1863 to launch the saga of the women we’ve briefly met throughout Book One, beginning with Irish housemaid Lily Duggan, whose bold escape from her troubled homeland cracks open the world for her daughter and granddaughter. The language is lush, urgent, chiseled and precise; sometimes languid, sometimes kinetic. At times, it reads like poetry, or a dream. Choppy sentences. Two-word declaratives. Arranged into stunning, jagged tableaux. Bleak, yet hopeful. (Describing Lily’s first view of America: “New York appeared like a cough of blood.”) The finale is a melancholy set piece that ties it all together--an unopened letter, “passed from daughter to daughter, and through a succession of lives,” becomes the book’s mysterious token, an emblem of a world grown smaller. McCann reminds us that life is hard, and it is a wonder, and there is hope. --Neal Thompson

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In 1919, British aviators Alcock and Brown made the first nonstop transatlantic flight, from Newfoundland to Ireland. McCann, in his first novel since the National Book Award–winning Let the Great World Spin (2009), imagines a letter handed to Brown by a young photographer, written by her mother, Emily, a local reporter covering the flight, to be delivered upon their landing to a family in Cork. Years earlier, while on a speaking tour in Ireland with the mission to raise money for the abolitionist movement, Frederick Douglass forms a bond with young Isabel, the daughter of his host family in Cork. Lily, a young servant, emboldened by Douglass’ visit, sets out for America, in the hope of a better life. About a century and a half later, former Senate majority leader George Mitchell is coaxed out of retirement to broker talks between the various factions, with the intention of getting a peace agreement by Good Friday. At the tennis club, he meets a woman in her nineties who, years earlier, had lost her grandson to the Troubles. It is Lily and her offspring’s stories—set across different times and in many different places—that ultimately tie everything together, as McCann creates complex, vivid characters (historical and otherwise) while expertly mixing fact and fancy to create this emotionally involving and eminently memorable novel. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Prepub buzz about McCann’s latest suggests it will be among the summer’s leading literary fiction titles. --Ben Segedin

More About the Author

Colum McCann is the internationally bestselling author of the novels Zoli, Dancer, This Side of Brightness, and Songdogs, as well as two critically acclaimed story collections. His fiction has been published in thirty languages. He has been a finalist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and was the inaugural winner of the Ireland Fund of Monaco Literary Award in Memory of Princess Grace. He has been named one of Esquire's "Best and Brightest," and his short film Everything in This Country Must was nominated for an Oscar in 2005. A contributor to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Paris Review, he teaches in the Hunter College MFA Creative Writing Program. He lives in New York City with his wife and their three children.

Customer Reviews

Mccann's writing is lyric and beautiful.
Using historical events to anchor his narrative, McCann weaves a fascinating fiction, seamlessly braiding three unique stories into one.
Music n Books
They are very interesting stories by themselves and the stories are woven together near the end of the book.
R. Deegan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

127 of 142 people found the following review helpful By "switterbug" Betsey Van Horn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As in LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN, McCann's new novel begins with a real event in the air, and uses the opening narrative as a camera lens, tilting this way and that and keeping us off balance while images assemble to create a defining scene. British aviators John Alcock and Arthur (Teddy) Whitten Brown are up in the air in their WW1 Vickers Vimy at the start of this tale, the pair who made the historical transatlantic journey from Newfoundland to Ireland in 1919. It could be said that the novel begins in medias res, and the reader is installed in an already evolving story that takes place from 1845 to the present. It is told through a non-linear progress of evolving images, events, and generations of people.

But, wait, I need to go back to the image in the prologue--to a house, and a woman listening to the sounds that define the house's character. By the time we make the symmetrical return to the house at the end of the book, its image has been altered and given much gravitas by the external events that precede it. The whole of the novel is most elegantly the sum of its parts. This isn't evident for a while, because the separate generations' stories are rendered with zoomed-in effect, and the camera gradually pulls out to connect the different stories together. Later, as the varying threads and initially unrelated perspectives go back and forth a few times, we see the integration of stories and generations into a panoramic whole. The factual characters and events heighten the poignancy of the fictional ones.

The graceful symmetry of the novel's harmonious and measured structure is one of the elements of this genre-blurring fiction that McCann is so noted for. He seamlessly weaves biographical people and events with the seemingly ordinary characters that populate the story.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
(4.5 stars) 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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86 of 105 people found the following review helpful By moose_of_many_waters VINE VOICE on May 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Colum McCann is a gifted storyteller and maybe if I were Irish, this book would resonate. Here we get a pastiche of short stories related to Ireland that involve some famous people - US Senator George Mitchell and Frederick Douglass - some sort of famous people, and one family over four generations whose women live quiet, modest and rather sad lives.

Transatlantic is a quick read although at times I would stop to reread a sentence to admire it. But the novel? It lacks a core and aside from the fact that a couple of the characters are public figures, it's hard for me to understand why the lives here are worth chronicling in short story form. The threads linking the chapters are, by design, thin. What's problematic with this novel is that the interior lives of the characters are given shallow treatments. Four generations of a family shouldn't, to my mind, be skimmed over and linking them to historical figures can't make up for the absence of depth. I'm curious as to how this book will be reviewed by critics when it comes out. On the one hand, it's written by a talented writer with an enviable track record. On the other hand, this is a modest, watery book.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
For anybody interested, I'll append a comment explaining some reasons why this book seemed almost to have been written for me personally at this particular moment in time. But I am also convinced that this magnificent achievement should appeal to anyone whose expectations of a novel are flexible enough to embrace what is really a strikingly original structure. I enjoyed a lot of the individual sections in McCann's National Book Award-winning LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN, but did not feel that they held together as a single story. This one, by contrast, makes no claim on unity of time, but jumps around from 1845 to 2011. It starts with three separate moments of history -- famous people, celebrated events -- but then goes on to show the history behind the history, the stories of ordinary people, forming a seamless web of living on which the great moments rest.

So many writers of Irish blood -- Frank McCourt, Sebastian Barry, Colm Toibín -- have told the story of westward crossings of the Atlantic, generally by impoverished Irish people seeking a second chance. The first thing that sets McCann's book apart is that all but one of the crossings are eastward, and involve well-known people. We have Alcock and Brown's 1919 flight from Newfoundland to the west coast of Ireland. Then Frederick Douglass visiting Dublin in 1845 to raise money for the abolition of slavery. And finally Senator George Mitchell shuttling between Washington, Belfast, London, and Dublin in 1994, finally bringing home the Good Friday peace accords. Each of these three stories could stand on its own, as a lightly fictionalized, but utterly human and brilliantly imagined account of an historical event.
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