Wednesday, July 2, 2014

TransAtlantic: a novel by Colum McCann

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
Random House
300 pages

 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 (Booklist)

My Thoughts -

I enjoyed this book with it's mix of history and stories.  As we follow Lily, her family, and a letter written and given to the first aviators to try and fly across the Atlantic we learn about many events from Frederick Douglass's 1845 trip to Ireland as a lecturer to George Mitchell sent mediator of the Irish conflict of the 1990's.  The intertwining of famous historical characters, events, and a series of strong woman make this a very interesting and enjoyable story.

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