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3.8  ·  Rating details ·  614 Ratings  ·  86 Reviews
With unreliable memories and scraps of photographs as his only clues, Conor Lyons follows in the tracks of his father, a rootless photographer, as he moved from war-torn Spain, to the barren plains of Mexico, where he met and married Conor's mother, to the American West, and finally back to Ireland, where the marriage and the story reach their heartrending climax. As the n ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 15th 1996 by Picador (first published January 10th 1995)
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Angela M
Mar 27, 2014 rated it really liked it

Nearly every sentence feels perfect - not a wasted word . I found myself reading paragraphs again. But it's always so much more with McCann - not just the language but the story, all of it. I've read several of McCann's later works and I consider him to be one of the finest contemporary writers so I was curious about his first novel. I was not disappointed. Returning to his home and his father after five years, a young man who has been in search of his mother who left when he was 12, discovers t
Sep 16, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars

Songdogs is Colum McCann's first novel, It is a multilayered story and written with McCann's usual sharp writing style and eloquence of prose.

The story is set around Conor Lyons who just returns from abroad to Mayo in Ireland after a five year trip to visit his aging father. He spends the week going over his fathers past life as a photographer when he spent time wandering through war torn Spain and then through Mexico where he meets and marries his wife(Conor's mother). After a period
ETA: It bothers me that I don't explain more about the theme of the story, but I don't know how to explain without giving the whole thing away. In addition I am pretty darn sure that others may not interpret this story as I do. What I think is so tragic and beautiful at the same time is that the father, the photographer, being who he is and (view spoiler) ...more
Diane S ☔
Mar 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
It is so very hard to describe the vividness and richness of McCann's writing to those who have never read him. He describes scenes and people so incredibly well that one can picture being there and watching everything as his story unfolds. This is a family novel, a son searching for the truth about his parents, though he knows where his father is, he needs to understand their story and find out the truth about his mother. His father was a photographer, during the Spanish war and the horrors of ...more
After my original review disappeared from here this is Re-post of it which I found in an old notebook. :)
For a slim volume,a little over 200 pages, this is a book of quite some substance. From the first page the weight of the words consumes you. This is an eloquent tale of a sons search for his parents history. His beautiful Mexican 'Mam' and his Irish father.
There is not a plot to be had, but the language and the characters are more than your heart can stand anyway. How anyone can express thems
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
I had to remind myself that this is Colum McCann's first novel. It is so rich and complete and lyrical and courageous. Like his more recent masterpieces, McCann is toying with themes of memory and personal history, but in this case the story is very small -- just one man searching for his parents, one of whom is physically present, one of whom is physically missing.

The story moves back and forth in time which was a bit confusing at first, but once I gave in to his storytelling, I realized its br
Apr 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first novel by one of my favorite authors - Colum McCann. The prose, as always, is lyrical and beautiful. The story is sweet and sad and much simpler than his more current books.

Colin is 23. He has returned home to Ireland because his visa to the US has expired. He will spend whatever time is necessary and then get another visa and return to the US, where he is living in Wyoming. He has not seen his father since he left home five years ago in search of his mother.

This is the story o
Shelley Cornish
Mar 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
One of my favorite authors—his first novel, which is a harbinger of his coming works. The short book covers a week-long visit of a son with his aged father, contrasted with scenes from the lives of his parents when they were beginning their relationship.
McCann shows compassion, but is never treacly.
Sep 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio-books, 2013
I should have a list of books that were more deserving of attention and care than I bestowed upon them. But sometimes life just interferes with my reading. Yet, I did love this book, even though I had put it aside for days on end.

This is my first book by Colum McCann and I know there will be more. In here he tells a story that is never black and white, as the most important relationships in our lives aren’t. A son returns to visit his aging and dying father while he reminisces on their life and
Mar 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: the passive
Shelves: booksofthepast
This book somehow ended up in my bedroom at my parents' house (probably cast off by my dad after he was finished with it) and I just sort of fell into reading it. Because of its random appearance I didn't expect much from it and I was pleasantly surprised. It's the story of a son who traces his father's life through scraps of letters and old photographs. From Ireland to Mexico and back again, Collin follows his father on the journey of his life and loves.

If this book ever finds its way into you
Karen Sturges
Apr 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I had read McCann's "Let the Great World Spin" and really liked it so I thought this would be a good choice. In fact it was wonderful. This is his first book and it is so touching and poignant. It jumps back and forth in the life of a young Irish man searching for his Mexican mother, exploring each culture beautifully and his parents amazing story and journey to the present. I listened to this book in audio form and the reader, Paul Nugent, did such a great job with the accents. Beautiful book!
Nov 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
Nonlinear narration at its most cogent. I applaud the choice of developing the main narrator mostly in the form of outlines: his function, and our function as curious children, is peering stupefied into the happier past of our parents. I didn't realize this was Colum McCann's first novel until just now. Byjesus.
Kathy Halsan
Feb 14, 2010 rated it liked it
This odd little book held my interest and created some interesting characters. In it, a young man follows his father's photos to search for his mother who abandonded him at a young age. The story takes place in Ireland, Mexico, San Francisco and Wyoming. There are some very touching scenes as the young man cares for his aging father for a short time.
Henry Wright
Sep 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
The narrative staggers along with flashbacks and I was never sure it would satisfy. His writing, his detail, carried me through. About 2/3 of the way in the two stories began to integrate and the beauty of this work revealed.
Jul 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2014
Gorgeous. Such a beautifully descriptive telling of a relatively slight story, yet it is compelling and memorable in the way that so many Irish writers are able to seemingly effortlessly manage. Perfectly paced and my favourite of the three of his I've read so far.
Mar 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Just brilliant. I struggled with the story line a bit at first, just not too keen on it, but the writing made it all worthwhile. For the week or so I was reading it, I felt like I was continually being pulled under by waves of linguistic imagery. Probably sounds trite, but there you are.
Aug 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Compelling story told in gorgeous prose.
Jane Hoppe
Nov 29, 2016 rated it liked it
** Partial spoiler alert ** In the beginning of Songdogs, Conor Lyons visits his aging father, “the old man,” now absorbed in fishing, in Mayo, Ireland. When Conor was twelve, his father Michael humiliated his mother Juanita for selfish, prideful reasons, and she left them. Conor’s adult self wonders about her mysterious disappearance and spends years wandering to find her. In so doing, he reconstructs his family’s past through a collection of photographs taken by his father drifting through sev ...more
Tarald Laudal
Jul 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Being a hobby photographer myself, I found the premise of this story interesting. Can a man's life be told and re-told through the scrutiny of his own photographic documentation of it? It surely makes for a potentially vivid tale, and I definitely think the author makes good on this prospect.

To begin with however, the characters McCann creates were a bit hard to get a grip on for me. The story is that of a son searching for answers to questions of his parent's life before his coming to being, a
Oct 22, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of later McCann works
Recommended to Jennifer by: Let the Great World Spin
This book made me wish that Goodreads had half stars so I could give this a 3 1/2 (somewhere between I liked it but not quite to I REALLY liked it). This is Colum McCann's first novel and it's clear he's a wonderful writer as he moves between the past and the present in the lives of Conor Lyons and his parents. Conor returns to his home in Ireland after several years of wandering and finds his father in less than stellar shape--frail, not taking care of himself, and going off to fish every day i ...more
Julie Whelan
Nov 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Some absolutely amazing lyrical writing here, especially in the sections of the book taking place in Ireland. Other parts take place in Mexico and are dramatically less poetic. The story follows a young man (perhaps autobiograhical?) who returns to Ireland to care for his elderly father who is failing. The father is an ornery old so-and-so but the son does his best meanwhile reliving his youth in this village and the story of his father and mothers courtship in Mexico. A continual motif is the f ...more
Mike Nyerges
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Songdogs by Colum McCann is a beautifully written work of tragedy.

In interleaving threads, it tells the story of an Irish photographer whose talents deliver little commercial success or recognition, his Mexican wife who feels isolated and stranded in their rural Irish town, and their son who searches for his mother by tracing his parents' lives from Mexico, where his parents met and married, across the U.S., and back again to Ireland where he discovers the truth behind her disappearance when he
Mar 28, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, english, ireland
'Songdogs' is one of those books I picked up rather blindly for a university task. I picked it because of its dynamic storyline, and although it's not really the kind of book I'd write, I still feel content about reading this book in particular.

Colum McCann is an Irish writer; I don't know a great deal about his work, but I think it's safe to say that he likes exotic characters. Characters that do not have ordinary lives. This is also the great strength of 'Songdogs'. A young man called Conor go
Feb 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
Beautiful language and a great concept. Not one of his best, but definitely a hint at his greater works to follow.

A good novel, but one that best shows what to avoid as a young writer. McCann’s style, as usual, is enviable, yet he often wanders off course in favor of a fluffily worded scene. The relationship between the much older father and his young, mix-raced son is well-drawn, however. The father and son’s interactions illustrate the quintessential relationship of two people who love each ot
Jun 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I was prompted to read this after reading Colum McCann's most recent novel, "Let the Great World Spin"- also an exceptional book and highly recommended reading. "Songdog" is his first published novel, and it is absolutely one of the best books I've read. The imagery is so vivid, the characters so real. I would be pulled into a Norman Rockwell painting while reading the descriptions of photographs taken by "the old man", though the purity and grace of those descriptions was likely far from realit ...more
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Narrated by Paul Nugent

6 hrs and 33 mins

Publisher's Summary

This is Colum McCann's first novel, now available for the first time in audio. With unreliable memories and scraps of photographs as his only clues, Conor Lyons follows in the tracks of his father, a rootless photographer, as he moved from war-torn Spain, to the barren plains of Mexico, where he met and married Conor's mother, to the American West, and finally back to Ireland, where the marriage and the story reach their heartrending cli
Richard Krawiec
Jul 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a book that is worth reading even though I'd probably actually give it a 3.5 rating. It's a first novel, and like many Irish novels moves slowly. But though the story seems to meander a bit, and the shifting from past to present shows an occasional seam, the beauty of its language and the careful rendering of complex emotional and psychological states is handled deftly. It's about a grown son returning to visit his father,who is downsliding with age. During the visit, the son tries to un ...more
Oct 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
If I'm being honest, I probably wouldn't have gotten through this if it wasn't required reading for my English class. That said, I'm really glad I DID get through it, because the last chapter or so of the book was by far the best part. Overall, not the kind of book I really enjoy, since it consists almost entirely of descriptions and minimal dialogue, but the story was touching and horribly sad, so if you're into a narrative writing style with a lot of flashbacks and memories, then I recommend g ...more
Jul 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: ireland, 2010, fiction
Like all Colum McCann's novels, Songdogs is beautifully written and engrossing in parts, in its exploration of the troubled marriage of the narrator's parents - a photographer from Ireland and the young woman he meets in a remote village in Mexico. I got a bit lost in the rambling narrative, unsure of what the point of the whole exercise was, but McCann really does right such gorgeous prose that even when I'm not so keen on the story or the characters, his novels are still a pleasure to read.
Shukri Abdullah
Jun 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Colum let you lost in a tailspin of vivid imagery and detailed narrative. I liked the jumps in time where the gap was incredibly as short as the next paragraph. Also, I loved how eventually, the choice is yours as much as it was Conor's on how he/we would feel about the whole thing especially his relationship with his dad. To some extent, his journey in tracing his mother and his heritage led him to contemplate and reflect on his perspective toward his dad and the relationship that they had, rat ...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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