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3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  10,875 ratings  ·  1,983 reviews
Colum 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 acr...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by Random House (first published January 1st 2013)
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A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth OzekiThe Lowland by Jhumpa LahiriThe Luminaries by Eleanor CattonTransAtlantic by Colum McCannThe Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín
2013 Man Booker Prize Longlist
4th out of 13 books — 211 voters
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil GaimanThe Golem and the Jinni by Helene WeckerLife After Life by Kate AtkinsonA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth OzekiThe Man Who Watched The World End by Chris Dietzel
Interesting Books of 2013
22nd out of 312 books — 840 voters

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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 Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
***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...more
Mar 02, 2014 Stuart added it
Colum McCann is a gifted storyteller and maybe if I were Irish, this book would resonate. Here we get a pastiche of short stories related to Ireland that involve some famous people - US Senator George Mitchell and Frederick Douglass - some sort of famous people, and one family over four generations whose women live quiet, modest and rather sad lives.

Transatlantic is a quick read although at times I would stop to reread a sentence to admire it. But the novel? It lacks a core and aside from the f...more
switterbug (Betsey)
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 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...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....more
Jessica Jeffers
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
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...more
Mari Anne
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 21, 2013 Tania rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Tania by: Coleen
Shelves: favorite-books
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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.

Rachel Watkins
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.
Jun 15, 2013 Elaine rated it 4 of 5 stars
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'...more
Paul Blaney
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...more
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...more
Larry Coleman
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...more
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...more
Diane S.
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
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
There is a shock of pleasure midway into this novel when one realizes three disparate stories of courageous, capable men on two continents are connected through the women they’ve known. The stories of these brave men are delicious vignettes to be supped upon at leisure…there is no bustle and rush as one story ends and another begins, each as delectable as the last, but that thread of connection is the mystery we struggle to untangle throughout.

Arthur Brown, one of the first transatlantic flight...more
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 Irish are dying of hunger during a terrible...more
May 09, 2013 Abby rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
Colum McCann was a critically acclaimed novelist before “Let the Great World Spin” won the National Book Award in 2009 and became a bestseller. Fans of that book who have been eagerly awaiting McCann's next effort won't be disappointed by “TransAtlantic.” As he did in LtGWS, McCann uses historical events as a frame for telling the stories of ordinary people whose lives are touched by those events, this time spanning 150 years and crisscrossing the Atlantic between North America and Ireland.

In 1...more
What is most striking (as in knock-me-down, breathless, and aching for more) about Colum McCann's TransAtlantic is the incredibly beautiful use of language. Can I say that again, about 1500 times? I highlighted so much of the book (in different colors) that I should just memorize it, like one long poem, which it kind of is.

TransAtlantic tells several stories that eventually connect, all concerning the transatlantic relationship between Canda/U.S. and Ireland. The book begins with the first trans...more
Let's say you have a vegas style slot machine, and in the three windows that come up you have Frederick Douglass, The first Transatlantic flight and peace talks in Ireland. OK, now make a story of them. McCann does, and does very well, and very well researched. He received a Guggenheim grant for which he thanked in the acknowledgements.

The more I know, the more I realize I don't know--for example, Douglass was still a slave until he purchased his freedom in Ireland, well in his speaking days. I...more
Colum McCann knows how to work magic. Four years ago, I fell under the spell of Let The Great World Spin; in fact, the first few pages, describing the extraordinary real-life feat of Philippe Petit showcases some of the finest contemporary writing I’ve been privileged to read.

The magic, sadly, is missing for me in his latest book, Transatlantic.

The premise is audacious and fascinating. Mr. McCann, who proved himself as a master in the art of the interwoven story, borrows from history. The first...more
Bonnie Brody
Transatlantic, by Colum McCann, is a breathtaking book. Its lyricism and poetic language knocked me skyways till I felt I was in flight myself. The story, as in other of McCann’s novels such as Let the Great World Spin, is about connections, repetitions, and how the past foretells the future and the future is the scribe for the past. In this novel, ‘Nothing ever finishes.” “We return to the lives of those who have gone before us, a perplexing Mobius strip until we come home, eventually, to ourse...more
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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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