TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
A Novel

73%

18 Critic Reviews

"TransAtlantic" is a story of almost pure descriptive force, as close to an image, or a collection of images, as words on a page can be.
-WSJ online

Synopsis

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY KIRKUS REVIEWS

In the National Book Award–winning Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann thrilled readers with a marvelous 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.
 
Newfoundland, 1919. Two aviators—Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown—set course for Ireland as they attempt the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean, placing their trust in a modified bomber to heal the wounds of the Great War.
 
Dublin, 1845 and ’46. On an international lecture tour in support of his subversive autobiography, Frederick Douglass finds the Irish people sympathetic to the abolitionist cause—despite the fact that, as famine ravages the countryside, the poor suffer from hardships that are astonishing even to an American slave.
 
New York, 1998. Leaving behind a young wife and newborn child, Senator George Mitchell departs for Belfast, where it has fallen to him, the son of an Irish-American father and a Lebanese mother, to shepherd Northern Ireland’s notoriously bitter and volatile peace talks to an uncertain conclusion.
 
These three iconic crossings are connected by a series of remarkable women whose personal stories are caught up in the swells of history. Beginning with Irish housemaid Lily Duggan, who crosses paths with Frederick Douglass, the novel follows her daughter and granddaughter, Emily and Lottie, and culminates in the present-day story of Hannah Carson, in whom all the hopes and failures of previous generations live on. From the loughs of Ireland to the flatlands of Missouri and the windswept coast of Newfoundland, their journeys mirror the progress and shape of history. They each learn that even the most unassuming moments of grace have a way of rippling through time, space, and memory.
 
The most mature work yet from an incomparable storyteller, TransAtlantic is a profound meditation on identity and history in a wide world that grows somehow smaller and more wondrous with each passing year.

Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.
 
“A dazzlingly talented author’s latest high-wire act . . . Reminiscent of the finest work of Michael Ondaatje and Michael Cunningham, TransAtlantic is Colum McCann’s most penetrating novel yet.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
 
“One of the greatest pleasures of TransAtlantic is how provisional it makes history feel, how intimate, and intensely real. . . . Here is the uncanny thing McCann finds again and again about the miraculous: that it is inseparable from the everyday.”—The Boston Globe
 
“Ingenious . . . The intricate connections [McCann] has crafted between the stories of his women and our men [seem] written in air, in water, and—given that his subject is the confluence of Irish and American history—in blood.”—Esquire
 
“Another sweeping, beautifully constructed tapestry of life . . . Reading McCann is a rare joy.”—The Seattle Times
 
“Entrancing . . . McCann folds his epic meticulously into this relatively slim volume like an accordion; each pleat holds music—elation and sorrow.”—The Denver Post


From the Trade Paperback edition.
 

About Colum McCann

See more books from this 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.
 
Published January 1, 2014 by Bloomsbury Paperbacks. 320 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
Bookmark Counts:
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Critic reviews for TransAtlantic
All: 18 | Positive: 12 | Negative: 6

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Jun 27 2013

... pretty, creative-writing-class flourishes are unnecessary and distracting — they pull the reader’s attention away from the real achievement of this novel: its deeply moving portrait of Lily...

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Erica Wagner on Jun 20 2013

...a book as ambitious and wide-ranging as this is bound to be a little inconsistent, and its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Theo Tait on May 31 2013

It's hard to fault McCann's fine sentiments, but really memorable fiction requires a little more ambiguity – some more grit in the oyster.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Mark O'Connell on May 25 2013

...his ambition and skill as a storyteller is such that the disconnected parts of this narrative seem to integrate into something large and subtly cohesive and humane.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Theo Tait on May 31 2013

It's hard to fault McCann's fine sentiments, but really memorable fiction requires a little more ambiguity – some more grit in the oyster.

Read Full Review of TransAtlantic: A Novel | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Mark O'Connell on May 25 2013

At its best, as in the superbly rendered early scene of Alcock and Brown's flight, the prose is poetically vivid.

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WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Thomas Chatterton Williams on Jun 07 2013

"TransAtlantic" is a story of almost pure descriptive force, as close to an image, or a collection of images, as words on a page can be.

Read Full Review of TransAtlantic: A Novel | See more reviews from WSJ online

NPR

Above average
Reviewed by Maureen Corrigan on Jun 17 2013

Maybe if McCann's language were less lovely, his lofty themes would stoop down once in a while to punch a reader in the gut. TransAtlantic is a book to admire, but not to lose yourself in.

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by Rosecrans Baldwin on May 29 2013

By the end, you realize the chapters have operated like a set of waves, rolling and rebuilding, crashing into one another — and, like waves, ultimately returning to a single source.

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by Rosecrans Baldwin on May 29 2013

...McCann never lets go of the reader's attention. His sentences are simply too surprising, his observations too astute.

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Kirkus

Excellent
on Mar 23 2013

A beautifully written novel, an experience to savor.

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Financial Times

Good
Reviewed by Sue Norris on Jun 07 2013

...Colum McCann’s spiritually airborne new novel, weaves together several characters, linked by the journeys they make between North America and Ireland...

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Star Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by ROBERT CREMINS on May 25 2013

When he gets away from the sure ground of the particular and into the peat bog of the general, the writing can turn a touch sententious...

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Toronto Star

Above average
Reviewed by Emily Donaldson on Jul 26 2013

McCann has won many passionate readers over the years, and while this isn’t his best effort to date, many will, I suspect, feel happily placated.

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AV Club

Above average
Reviewed by Noah Cruickshank on Jun 10 2013

...TransAtlantic is epic in scope, encompassing many perspectives and generations. While McCann’s particular milieus shine, the book never quite manages to come together.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Lawrence Hill on Jul 19 2013

With his new novel, TransAtlantic, McCann does it again. He celebrates an idea: that of people in Canada and the United States who are connecting with Ireland...TransAtlantic is a novel of migration, back and forth between worlds Old and New, and it too refuses to be chained to a single perspective.

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USA Today

Above average
Reviewed by Bob Minzesheimer on Jun 04 2013

McCann is blessed with a reckless imagination. But he's best appreciated by readers who care less about where the story is headed and more about how it's told — sentence fragment by fragment.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Lawrence Hill on Jul 19 2013

Readers and writers will find much to admire in McCann’s TransAtlantic: the birth of story, the sweeping narrative range spilling into numerous points of view, and the breathtaking details of life, flight, hope and death.

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