Saturday, June 8, 2013

Trans Atlantic by Colum McCann **

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann is a beautifully written collection of novellas around the last two centuries of Irish history. McCann's crisp journalistic style and lyrical detail make this book a pleasure to read.

The collection includes predominantly historical selections: Fredrick Douglass's 18th century tour of Ireland during the potato famine, the first transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to Ireland (1919), and Senator George Mitchell's role in the Northern Ireland peace process. The fictional selections follow four generations of Irish women from emigration during the potato famine to return immigration over a century later.

I was disappointed in my reading because I was expecting a more coherent story. The 150-plus year saga did not hold together like I'd come to expect from authors like Mitchner and Uris. In addition, the multiple threads did not come together at the end like a Dickens novel, or some many contemporary mysteries. These are two shores of the same ocean. On the American side, I felt the common story threads were too weak to combine the St Louis, Newfoundland, New York, ... in to a single continent. On the Irish side, the final scenes reflected too little light on all that came before.

It might be that history, especially Irish history, is like the Middle East, senseless disputes followed by random violence for ever and ever. If that is the point, ... I don't like to be reminded of this in my pleasure reading (fiction), but others might very well enjoy this excellently written book.

While many cups of tea were consumed during the narrative, the book's loose structure was not my cup of tea.

I received a free copy of this book via the Goodreads First Read program.

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