TransAtlantic: A Novel
by Colum McCann
Hardcover- $18.48


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  "Transatlantic, Colum McCann" by thewanderingjew (see profile) 06/25/13

Transatlantic begins in 1919 with a landmark flight by two young ex-servicemen, Teddy Brown and Jack Alcock, who fly across the ocean from Newfoundland to Dublin, non-stop. The description of that flight is commanding and electrifying. Before they left, however, they were lodged in a hotel where they met journalist Emily Ehrlich and her daughter, Lottie. Lottie packs them some sandwiches and asks them to deliver a letter to the Jennings family, as a favor to her mother.
The story then moves back in time to 1845. We are in the Jennings home. They are hosting the civil rights activist, Frederick Douglass. He has many public speaking engagements where he enraptures audiences with his speeches about the need for an end to the practice of slavery. It was there, at that time, that Lily Duggan, Emily’s mother and Lottie’s grandmother, met Frederick Douglass, whose remarks inspire her. After hearing his comments, Lily realizes that she has no future in Ireland. If she stays, she will always be a maid in the service of others. The potato famine is spreading in Ireland and conditions are getting more and more calamitous. She makes a decision to travel to America and leaves that very night.
The story moves back and forth in time, generously sprinkling fact with an assortment of fictional characters. We witness the civil war, the religious strife in Ireland, the stock market crash of \'29, the revolution in Ireland, the potato famine; all are woven into the tale, as McCann tells the story of the search for freedom and success, by Lily, Frederick Douglass, and Brown and Alcock, and George Mitchell. The crux of the story is largely developed through the lives of Lily and her ancestors, from 1845 until 2011. Seemingly mundane details take on a life of their own, a more important place, as we learn more and more about this family.
There are times, in the telling, when the individual parts of the story seem disjointed. It was hard to connect Part 1 and Part 2 at first, and then there was a part3! There were so many characters that seemed extraneous and hard to place in importance, but in the end, all were purposeful, all made a point about life during those times, and the struggles it encompassed. All of the characters moved forward, time and again, dusting themselves off, maintaining hope, and entering their future, even though they watched many enter their past and remain there.
The story is told in short, bold sentences that are packed with information. They create tension, edge of the seat moments. The reader will want to read on, even sometimes, in wild confusion, because there is always a message, a deeper meaning further on.
McCann wove all the individual parts together. The book might require two reading to get its full impact. It is about the concept of freedom for all. It is about courageous people, people who run off to make a change in themselves or the world, people with a purpose. The pilots fought for their country and freedom in WWI. They flew off to Ireland to make history in another way. Douglas escapes his past and makes history as a civil rights activist, gains his freedom and helps gain the freedom of others. Lily flees her situation of servitude and survives, successfully, in the world of business. George Mitchell leaves his happy home in order to conduct peace talks in Ireland and refuses to give up until they have a mutual understanding and a hope for the future. All of these characters are inspired by the thought that all men are equal and entitled to their freedom, regardless of their circumstances, their religion, race or station in life. All of the characters sacrificed something, left someone or something behind, in order to attain that purpose, that legacy, because all were dedicated to a cause, sometimes larger than themselves.

  "Transience of life" by kathrynda (see profile) 02/16/14

Crossings are fascinating and moving. Descriptions of the Irish Famine make it more than an interesting historical event.

  "Transcendant" by mmcbride (see profile) 05/04/14

This book takes you across the Atlantic as the title suggests but also takes you to different time periods. A great idea by the author to span time and space with fictional characters who could be real and real-life characters and their uniqueness that makes them seem fictional. Great book.

  "Transatlantic " by bj21580 (see profile) 07/30/14

Very confusing, disconnected and boring.

  "" by jsvincent (see profile) 09/30/14

  "Transatlantic" by lionel (see profile) 10/07/14

I thought it was an interesting way to present a period in history around three men and three women.
Some of their stories were more captivating than others but all were woven together very cleverly.

  "" by Kerri123 (see profile) 10/07/14

  "" by wmartin (see profile) 05/22/15

  "fascinating and worth the effort" by Kltelford (see profile) 12/21/15

While it could be slow in parts, with certain chapters more engaging than others, the quality of writing and historical backgrounds make this an interesting read.

  "My book club choice was a bomb..." by foley_barrett (see profile) 06/22/18

1 out of 5 liked this book. The rest of us hated it, including me. I guess it's just not up our alley.

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