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3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  19,780 Ratings  ·  2,901 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 centurie ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by Random House (first published 2013)
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Steviepuffin I loved it, and his style. It's not for everyone but as a teacher of creative writing I have used passages from this book as examples of quality…moreI loved it, and his style. It's not for everyone but as a teacher of creative writing I have used passages from this book as examples of quality writing.
That being said, I have encountered similar problems with authors I've read. I think it's very much a case of reader and writer being in tune with each other. I recently attempted to read Catch 22 (again) and failed (again). (less)
Loree Harrell So much about writing (life) is about rhythm. The people we instinctively know could be great friends, before we even can claim to know them, carry a…moreSo much about writing (life) is about rhythm. The people we instinctively know could be great friends, before we even can claim to know them, carry a compatible rhythm we immediately recognize. Writing is the same. No one book is for every person, and every book is going to annoy the heck out of someone while it delights another. TransAtlantic rang clear perfect for me and I closed it with regret.(less)

Community Reviews

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Jan 07, 2013 Kris rated it really liked it
I was very happy to win a copy of TransAtlantic from Goodreads in return for an honest review. I had been looking forward to this novel for some time. As I have mentioned before, I tend to be very picky about historical fiction -- an occupational hazard for some historians. I want engaging style as well as good research, and I sometimes have difficulty focusing on the characters and the plot instead of historical details. I also tend to shudder at some writers' tendency to name drop as many famo ...more
Richard Derus
Apr 02, 2013 Richard Derus rated it it was amazing
***UPDATE 7/23/2013*** TransAtlantic on the Long List for the MAN Booker Prize!

Rating: 4.85* of five

The Book Description: National Book Award-winning novelist Colum McCann delivers his most ambitious and beautiful novel yet, tying together a series of narratives that span 150 years and two continents in an outstanding act of literary bravura.

In 1845 a black American slave lands in Ireland to champion ideas of democracy and freedom, only to find a famine unfurling at his feet. In 1919, two brave
switterbug (Betsey)
Apr 01, 2013 switterbug (Betsey) rated it it was amazing
As in LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN, McCann's new novel begins with a real event in the air, and uses the opening narrative as a camera lens, tilting this way and that and keeping us off balance while images assemble to create a defining scene. British aviators John Alcock and Arthur (Teddy) Whitten Brown are up in the air in their WW 1 Vickers Vimy at the start of this tale, the pair who made the historical transatlantic journey from Newfoundland to Ireland in 1919. It could be said that the novel b ...more
This was enchanting to me. Three immersions in historical events and people that involve a crossing of the Atlantic between Ireland and North America. They happen to be male: two British airmen making the first crossing after World War 1; Frederick Douglass on a speaking tour of Ireland in 1845, and the former Maine Senator, George Mitchell, helping negotiate the Northern Ireland peace accord between 1995 and-1998. These disparate events have links though time by three generations of fictional w ...more
Colum McCann is a talented writer. He can say in six words what most people can't say in 60. I really enjoyed this, his latest novel.

First of all, he has a way of making me interested in topics in which I had little or no interest prior. The first transatlantic flight, for instance. Sure, it's useful to know when it happened, and who accomplished it, but did I really care? Nah. Enter Colum McCann.

In a few paragraphs, you'll feel as though you understand the essence of who those two pilots are.
Dec 27, 2013 Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-kindle, reviewed, 2014
This review is going to be mostly about me.


Colum McCann is an Irish writer who in 2009 wrote that book about Philippe Petit, which turns out to have been as much about Philippe Petit as, say, To Kill a Mockingbird is about Boo Radley. The book merely uses Petit’s performance art as an anchoring point around which the book’s different stories of life in 1970s New York City are tethered. And in spite of the fact that the short story form is not generally my bag, I actually found it surpri
Jan 08, 2013 Jessica rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, arc-egalley
When I was in graduate school, I wrote a paper on women's memoirs. One of the points that kept popping up in research is that, historically, memoirs were only written by Important People and, historically, Important People only included men. The result is that we often have to use less direct methods to discern what life was like for the women: unless we can read their diaries, letters and the like, the only stories we are left with have been filtered through men's lenses and only reflect the sm ...more
Diane S ☔
Feb 09, 2013 Diane S ☔ rated it it was amazing
Trite but true, all good things must come to an end. I so wanted to keep reading the wonderful prose, the settings that let one think they are part of the story, and the wonderful characters that this novel contains. McCann has the knack of illuminating the everyday things of a person's life, hidden pride, glowing praise, love for country family and children. Everyday items, inconsequential things assume a meaning that often in apparent only in hindsight. Taking real historical characters and mi ...more
Apr 19, 2014 Britany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I delved right into this one without going back and reading the summary description on GR. I stopped halfway through because I was confused. Three narratives regarding three different men that didn't seem to connect. Once I went back and read the summary it all came together. The first half is comprised of more historical writing based on famous men including Frederick Douglass. The second half weaves a fictional narrative back through these three men's lives. One woman- Lily Duggan, and her des ...more
Mari Anne
Oct 12, 2013 Mari Anne rated it it was ok
Finished this one... but just barely, and only because it was for book club. This felt more like a book of short stories, with the last one just barely pulling them all together. It felt contrived and was quite frankly a bit confusing. In the last section I was still not quite sure who the lady was and what all the fuss was about the letter. Due to the "short story" feel of this book there is little to no character or plot development, which I found very problematic. I have also decided that I c ...more
Jul 11, 2015 ☮Karen rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, read-in-2016
Men of history make up the beginning chapters, and then four generations  of fictional women, their stories woven into a beautiful braid,  complete it.  Indeed, I felt a part of their story even if I am not Irish.  It has a strong relevance to Ireland's history, while linking it to America's as well; and McCann's handling of the female voice was expert.

I have to admit to a general confusion throughout my reading, due to the time shifts mostly, and trying to keep track of which female we were on
Larry Coleman
Dec 21, 2013 Larry Coleman rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I can understand why this book's rating is on the high side, and that's because as "artists" such as James Joyce, Jackson Pollock, John Cage, and pretty much everyone who's ever had a film in the Sundance festival demonstrate, there are a lot--a LOT--of people who can't tell the difference between high art and pretentious nonsense.

Reading this book (and I really tried, but after just over 100 pages, I just couldn't take it anymore) is painfully like being the designated driver on karaoke night a
Close your eyes and picture me smiling.

That is me after finishing this book. I was so very satisfied, pleased, happy. I think this book is fantastic.

McCann has perfect dialogs, be they set centuries earlier or two years ago. His books do demand that you pay close attention, but they deliver a message that is worth the reader's effort. He skillfully interweaves historical events into fiction. His characters come alive. Every single sentence has a purpose. His ability to put the reader in anothe
Jun 08, 2013 Alena rated it it was amazing
Another triumph from the gifted story-teller Colum McCann.

In TransAtlantic, he deftly weaves a tale of family, courage, home and hope using historically significant events as his key ingredients. For the first third of the novel, I couldn’t figure out how he would tie together the first transatlantic flight, Frederick Douglas’ tour of Ireland and the Good Friday Peace Accords, but he does it masterfully. I was transfixed by the individuals and the larger themes.

McCann is not an easy read. Like
Enid Blyton, Charles Dickens, Haruki Murakami and now Colum McCann, these are all authors that over the years have set my reading world alight. Enid for being the author that nurtured my childhood bookishness, Charles for showing me that classic literature is nothing to be scared of, Haruki for letting me in on a huge secret that modern fiction can be breathtaking and now Colum who has gently but firmly lead not shown me the way through this wonderful book.
The opening chapters of Transatlantic
I did not finish this book.
I do not want to finish this book.

I don't know, maybe it's just me but I found the writing to be very choppy, staccato-like.
Each time I started reading I just couldn't get into it. The writing didn't flow smoothly and I found myself reading lines over and over again. It wasn't enjoyable so I just returned this book to the library.

C'est la vie.

Jul 02, 2013 Tony rated it liked it
Shelves: irish, autographed
There isn’t a story in the world that isn’t in part, at least, addressed to the past.

This is a book about crossings. Alcock and Brown fly from Newfoundland to Ireland, landing unintentionally, but first, in a bog. Frederick Douglass journeys there to lecture to the predisposed, and, oh, to maybe sell a few books. Senator George Mitchell goes there, again and again, trying to forge a peace. Women cross, mostly in the other direction, but always as a literary glue, connecting the pieces and vignet
Paul Blaney
May 26, 2013 Paul Blaney rated it liked it
Honestly, I struggled a little to finish this. The writing is beautifully crafted and I found the first two sections (Alcock & Brown's transatlantic flight and Frederic Douglass's visit to Famine-plagued Ireland) engaging, but after that the book lost its way. The third (Senator Mitchell/Good Friday Agreement) section lacked resonance somehow; it felt like an exercise, albeit one expertly pulled off.

I understand that McCann isn't that interested in plot but I wanted more to hold this togethe
Dec 15, 2013 Donna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I hope this review won't be a bunch of blathering because I want to do this book justice. This was my first time reading anything by this author, so I had no idea what his writing would be like or if he would make history come alive for me, which is why I read historical fiction in the first place. If I had wanted dry facts, I'd read a history book or a nonfiction book on whatever subject interested me. So I was pleased to discover that there was nothing dry about this book. It was one of those ...more
Jul 07, 2013 Tania rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tania by: Coleen
There is no real anonymity in history

This was my first book by Colum McCann, but it won't be my last. He writes so incredibly beautiful, very different from anything I've read before. He uses short, concise yet powerfully descriptive sentences.
The children looked like remnants of themselves. Spectral. Some were naked to the waist. Many of them had sores on their faces. None had shoes. He could see the structure of them through their skin. The bony residue of their lives.

He also has the ability
Feb 08, 2013 Barbara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I received my copy of TransAtlantic through a Goodreads giveaway.

Never having read McCann's previous book, Let The Great World Spin, I had no idea whether or not I would like TransAtlantic. To say I enjoyed it would be a vast understatement- his prose is beautiful, conjuring the moments portrayed perfectly. The story is intriguing and flows naturally. I so loved this book that upon finishing it I actually cried "no" when finding no more pages to turn! I'm off to get a copy McCann's earlier book
Rachel Watkins
Jan 31, 2013 Rachel Watkins rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc
Without hesitation I declare this book wonderful. McCann's writing is lush and bright. On more than one occasion, I had to stop and reread a phrase or paragraph because I was happily overwhelmed. The story of four generations of women includes history, heartbreak, and themes of the struggle and empowerment of both men and women. TransAtlantic will not disappoint you.
May 09, 2013 Elaine rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
3.5 stars.

Transatlantic begins with a breathtaking, beautiful and utterly compelling account of the first transatlantic plane flight. Even though I knew this little corner of history, my heart was still in my mouth as McCann describes the perils and textures of early flight.

The next chapter is an equally compelling glimpse of history - this time, Frederick Douglass's visit to Ireland during the early days of the Great Famine. The overlapping currents of history are fascinating, but so is McCann'
Jun 03, 2013 Dem rated it really liked it
Transatlantic by Colum McCann is a page turning novel that brings together both real and fictional characters across different centuries.

This novel tells the story of 3 historical events. The author keeps close to the main facts while fictionalizing the anecdotes, thoughts and actions of his characters throughout the stories.
The first story is a vivid account of the Airmen Alcock and Brown who pilot the very first non-stop transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to the west of Ireland. I loved th
Oct 06, 2013 Jennifer rated it liked it
I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying that Transatlantic is a story told in fragments of interconnected lives. At the core are several generations of women who touch the lives of "great men" (the first transatlantic pilots, Frederick Douglass fighting for freedom, Senator Mitchell fighting for peace) Meanwhile, the women are "normal" women living generally average or, at least, uncelebrated lives.

I found this book incredibly uneven. There were segments that I was engrossed in and those
May 22, 2013 jordan rated it it was amazing
How tragic that hyperbole has denuded the word `lyrical' of most its impact and meaning! Were it not for this failing of our language, that adjective would suite Colum McCann better than near any writer currently writing. One can open his work to near any page - to near any sentence - and become overwhelmed by this author's ability to place each word so perfectly that one cannot imagine another might take its place, like poetry, or a tile in a mosaic, or a note in a symphony. More extraordinary, ...more
Mar 30, 2013 Cynthia rated it really liked it
The Letter

Brown and Alcock were early aviators, Frederick Douglas was a former slave turned activist, George Mitchell was an American politician who was involved with Irish peace talks. Their stories span from the mid 19th century through the cusp of the current century. All these men were innovators, famous, and lived in the public eye. They all had private lives away from the unrelenting glare, lives that were important to them. They all struggled with reconciling these two separate existences
"No history is mute. No matter how much they own it, break it, and lie about it, human history refuses to shut its mouth. Despite deafness and ignorance, the time that was continues to tick inside the time that is"
---Eduardo Galeano

From the epigraph of

I finished this book a day or so ago, and I can't stop thinking about it. I think it may well become one of my favorite books, and I'm still writing notes and lines that captured me.
Read 11/17/13. Reread for book group 9/9/14.
Colum McCann has woven a story about four generations of fictional women with three actual events featuring some very admirable men from history. The characters cross the Atlantic, by ship or by plane, from Ireland to North America and back. The search for freedom, and the tragedy of war on both continents figures in their lives.

In Dublin in 1845-46, Frederick Douglas is on a lecture tour, selling his book to raise money for the abolitionist cause. The
Nov 29, 2015 Connie rated it really liked it
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful writing. A bit disconnected for me though.

I appreciated that McCann melded the stories by the end of this book, but for me it was too long coming. It was too disjointed thru the first half. I would have preferred knowing the connection of these woman as they appeared in the historical aspects of this book. The second half, the part that was fictional and connected them was the success for me.

If I don't have Irish blood in my veins I wish I did. What a proud anc
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Colum McCann is the author of two collections of short stories and four novels, including "This Side of Brightness,""Dancer" and “Zoli,” all of which were international best-sellers. His newest novel “Let the Great World Spin” will come out in 2009. His fiction has been published in 26 languages and has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, GQ, Paris Review and other places. He has wri ...more
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