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TransAtlantic: A Novel Paperback – May 20, 2014
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I really liked the concept of interconnected stories from various perspectives all connected in some way with crossings between Ireland and the United States and freedom,... Read morePublished 2 days ago by Lindsay M. Coppens
Well written --Real times and real characters from Frederick Douglas to George Mitchell and fictional characters as well. Read morePublished 4 days ago by Librarian
Very simple story (but not simple writing at all) with a historical background.
You feel the places, the people, their feelings, their mood,the weather.
I have not finished reviewing this book. Please ask again in 2 weeks or so. I am very impressed with the writing.Published 1 month ago by Thelma Leff