Chrissie's Reviews > TransAtlantic

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
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it was amazing
bookshelves: ireland, usa, new-foundland, hf, audible, alt, favorites

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 another time or place cannot be improved upon. I absolutely love his writing.

You may choose this book to learn about the Abolitionist and Suffragist Movement or the Good Friday Accords or transatlantic navigation or to understand how "there isn't a story in the world that isn't addressed to the past." What does that tell us in how we should live our own lives?

I listened to the audiobook narration by Geraldine Hughes. Me, I love the Irish dialect. Perfect.
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Reading Progress

April 15, 2013 – Shelved
April 15, 2013 – Shelved as: ireland
April 15, 2013 – Shelved as: usa
April 15, 2013 – Shelved as: new-foundland
April 15, 2013 – Shelved as: hf
June 2, 2013 – Shelved as: audible
June 5, 2013 – Shelved as: own-unlistened
June 17, 2013 – Started Reading
June 17, 2013 – Shelved as: alt
June 21, 2013 – Shelved as: favorites
June 21, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 67 (67 new)

Susan This sounds good to me, too. I love books that make connections between disparate people. I am on the list for the print copy at the library, but the library doesn't even have it yet!

Chrissie The audio came out just a few days ago. I can usually count on McCann to please me, no matter what the subject is. I heard about this when I completed the last I read by McCann, and I have been eagerly waiting.

Laura How do you like it so far?

Chrissie I loved the part about the transatlantic air crossing. I was sitting in the airplane with them freezing my fingers off. Scary, zooming through clouds. It was funny b/c I read a review where someone says that part is boring, and I loved it. The next part is very different, and that is slower in my opinion. The different stories all go together at the end. Typical McCann writing.

If someone were to ask me if I prefer simple single threads rather than complicated time switches I would say I prefer the simple variant, BUT McCann never does that, and still I love his writing. This only proves one never knows what makes a book good. There are no guidelines. Don't you agree? I like good writing and playing with words, but how do you define that?

Diane S ☔ Very curious to see how you rate this one. I loved it and was sad when it ended.

Laura I agree, Chrissie.

Diane, I'll also be curious what Chrissie will think!

Chrissie Diane, you gave this one five stars!!! Sounds good. I must say that I am least drawn to the story about Frederick Douglas - the potato famine and the abolition movement, and I didn't understand why Lily left. I loved the airplane ride, ie the thread that begins after WW1,and I love how he depicts NYC in the modern thread. How in the world are these all going to go together?

I was so happy I didn't have to wait so long for this to come out in the audio format. I do like listening to the Irish dialect, it is soft, charming, beautiful!

Diane S ☔ I gave this one five stars because even though I love his use of language, like you as I was reading I wondered how he was going to tie everything together. He did in a way I thought was brilliant.

Laura Nice.

message 10: by Chrissie (last edited Jun 18, 2013 09:41PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chrissie Diane, that is great to know I have that ahead of me! I already see how some of the stories interlock. There is not much happiness in this one. Usually you find glimmers of it in his writing.

Diane S ☔ There is some, you will see. There will be a few glimmers.

Chrissie Good, because I am finding it a bit depressing.

Laura I have to be in the right mood to read his stuff for that reason. It's great, but not always easy to read.

I'm really glad to have the benefit of both of your impressions as you read, Chrissie.

message 14: by Chrissie (last edited Jun 19, 2013 05:41AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chrissie Laura and Diane, I am at the same time reading a non-fiction account of the Burma-Thai Railway: One Fourteenth Of An Elephant. I finished it two minutes ago! So of course grim reading. But the interesting thing is that in the non-fiction book, that should be grimmer, there is kindness and there is bravery and courage and even some humor that all counteracts the horrific. Real life is a mix, never just the horrible, and if a fiction book cannot capture that, it skews everything. Maybe writing fiction is harder than non-fiction. Or maybe it just is that I like books to mirror real life.

Laura I think you're right. A glimmer of hope is important, and I do believe that comes closer to real life.

Hopefully McCann will give you some glimmers soon!

message 16: by Chrissie (last edited Jun 19, 2013 09:46AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chrissie Yup, once I complain I always seem to get the book to change and give me what I want. There was a really great description of how you make neat clumps of ice from a lake, to be sold before one had refrigerators. This author made it as fascinating as the airplane trip I spoke of earlier. You need relief from grim events when you read.


I sat down and figured out how all the people in the different sections are related and go together. Always, always, alway McCann's books are little puzzles to solve. I am thinking now how his stories where one generation of people interact with other generations....isn't life like that? We think we make our own decisions but what has happened before plays a large role in what happens later. While we are living we do not realize it. Even miscellaneous people in our lives have their impact. Is he saying that we are all interconnected? You think what you do has no impact on others' lives but in fact it does. Somehow it is all very intriguing how all his books throw at you different people jumbled in time. That I like to solve these puzzles amazes me. Why is it worth the effort when it is all fiction? I don't understand why when I read "Life after Life" I just got annoyed, and here I don't! Why?

Diane S ☔ For me it is because even though McCann's books need to be put together, when he does it is meaningful and insightful. Life after Life and the repetition of things was just a literary device and at the end had virtually no message or the message was so elusive I for one could not figure quite what it was meant to represent. When McCann's comes together it is a big aha moment, it is clear. Does this make sense?

Laura I think you nailed it, Diane.

message 19: by Chrissie (last edited Jun 20, 2013 12:01AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chrissie YES, you are right! Diane. Absolutely right!!! You know I woke up this morning with the answer to my own question, re the difference between McCann and Atkinson! You go on thinking as you sleep.

Diane, I am absolutely loving it now. Lilly! God, I love Lilly. I love how the most horrific is right next to the most wonderful. I am talking about the ice.....

Laura, the beginning has some hope, but then it is quite difficult until you get to the half-way mark, where I am now. Well that is how it was for me.

I also think I understand about what McCann achieves with his mix of different people and how you switch between different time periods that are not kept in order. It is this: in his books you see a person, you know that person just a bit, and yet you do not really know all the events that have made that person who they are. When you learn about the events that have made them who they are, it is kind of like how it is in real life. You meet someone and slowly their "history" is revealed. McCann's biggest gift is his ability to draw those scenes which are life directing so well that you really understand why they changed the person who lived through them. Look at Lilly's life!

It is important when you read all of McCann's books to pay attention to all details. Every detail is important. My niggling suspicions about Lilly's decision to leave Ireland seem to be right; all becomes clearer. First McCann makes you want to understand then he slowly lets you understand. And it all makes perfect sense. Damn, he can write! Jeez!!!!!! And you are left with an important message, something that makes sense and makes you see your own life with a little more depth and understanding. It also shows you to look at others with more understanding. You meet new people everyday, and you don't have any idea who they really are!

I am half way through approximately and I am loving this.

Diane S ☔ So glad, I too loved Lilly, which is my granddaughters name too. Also everything you said is true and he sure can write. I only wish this book had been longer. But he knows when to stop, he knows when the story is told and doens't just go on for word counts. I love that about him. He knows absolutely when his story is over.

message 21: by Chrissie (last edited Jun 20, 2013 03:56AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chrissie Diane S. wrote: "So glad, I too loved Lilly, which is my granddaughters name too. Also everything you said is true and he sure can write. I only wish this book had been longer. But he knows when to stop, he knows w..."

I definitely agree. Every sentence should be there, and I appreciate authors that do not drone on. I hope he is busy writing another.

I am doing this very slowly to make sure I don't miss one detail. I rewind and re-listen.

Diane S ☔ I am lucky I still have a few of his to read. My daughter, who is 25 and lives in Chicago met him a couple of weeks ago on an EL train in the city. He was here for our big Publishers Row event, which the city has every summer. She said he was very kind, she loved his voice and he was wearing the same scarf he had on for his author's photo on the back of the book.

Chrissie Diane, I have listened to all that are available on audio. Is that your daughter called Lilly that met him? So he has a nice voice! What else did she tell you about him? Is your daughter, like you, a big reader?

Laura Chrissie wrote: "YES, you are right! Diane. Absolutely right!!! You know I woke up this morning with the answer to my own question, re the difference between McCann and Atkinson! You go on thinking as you sleep.


Wonderful to hear this. I have to say, the intro wasn't drawing me all that much, but now I am getting the itch to read this. Audiobook is here but I need the book (both from hold list) before I can start.

So glad you're enjoying it, Chrissie. I hoped McCann wouldn't disappoint you.

Laura Diane S. wrote: "So glad, I too loved Lilly, which is my granddaughters name too. Also everything you said is true and he sure can write. I only wish this book had been longer. But he knows when to stop, he knows w..."

Diane, you said that so well. So freaking well. I have to say.

In fact, you both write very well, and could be writers yourselves.

Nice hearing both of your views.

Chrissie I think I have about two hours left. Good stuff.

message 27: by Ann (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ann Chrissie wrote: "I loved the part about the transatlantic air crossing. I was sitting in the airplane with them freezing my fingers off. Scary, zooming through clouds. It was funny b/c I read a review where someon..."

I love McCann as well. I will have to put this on my to read list.

Chrissie I will finish this off tomorrow. Don't want to rush it.

Diane S ☔ Laura, you are too kind. No Lilly is my granddaughter, she is only 4 but my daughter is 24 and her name is Ariane. She said McCann had a stack of papers on his lap, and kept marking different sections with a pencil. He was very kind when she went up to him but she did not talk to him very long because her stop came up. She said the biggest thing was he had a nice smile, looked just like his picture and did not seem irritated at all by her interruption. That is all but to her very memorable. And yes, she is a big reader, actually a school resource teacher and I am always giving her books to read her recommending others. Looking forward to your finished review. I think you, like me, will be sad when there is no more to read.

Chrissie I listened to a little at breakfast and then thought I would take Oscar out first so I can listen to more afterwards. I don't want it to end.

Good writer!

message 31: by Kats (new) - added it

Kats Chrissie, I love your review, and I am so pleased to hear that McCann's latest offering is another winner. I love his writing so much!

Where did you get the audio book from? Audible won't allow me (resident in CH) to download it, do you have a different provider in BE, or different sales rights?

message 32: by Chrissie (last edited Jun 21, 2013 03:27AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chrissie Kats, I got it from, but I am correctly registered as living in Belgium.

I am so tired of these publishing restrictions! I think Downpour also has it. Check that out too. They will soon be opening a particular site for those of us who live in Europe. This will make many more audiobooks available to us, that is what they told me.

Thank you, Kats!!!!!

message 33: by Kats (new) - added it

Kats Now, I'm even more annoyed about these stupid publishing restrictions! So, we are both customers of, both residents in Europe, but you can buy a book from Belgium that won't even show up on the website when viewed from Switzerland. Aaarrggghhhh!!

Chrissie Crazy rules. We will be moving to moving and I tried to ask them which place, Sweden or France, would be more beneficial, and could get no clear answer from them!

message 35: by Kats (new) - added it

Kats Chrissie, I just love that you'd consider your next move to another country based on that place's publishing restrictions on Audible!!
(Or at least that I want to interpret your last comment that way! :-)

Laura I may be reading this soon, as the book is now in at the library. I'm hoping it won't be too depressing. Your review helped me decide. :)

Chrissie Kats, no, no, no. We will be living in both places so I can choose in which country I want to register my membership.

Laura, just get to the half-way point. Get to the point where you learn how to make ice from a lake. Boy, that was fascinating. But I must also point out that this book spoke to me b/c it concerns people who see the world as their home. I am not one who is drawn to just one place, as many other people are. I have lived in several, and I like and dislike things about each.

But each one of us seems to react differently! I remember reading one reviewer who said the part about the transatlantic air-flight was boring; yet I loved it.

Per did not like this at all as much as I did. I don't think he relates to McCann's style of writing. I just love his sentences.

At the end, Hannah's remarks had me laughing. I liked Hannah.

Laura I don't think the transatlantic flight part calls to me either, but I was thinking Vic might enjoy it. He doesn't like audiobooks read with the Irish accent, though. I don't love the accent but I can tolerate it. (And I'm part Irish! Hehe)

Laura I will at least give it a try, based on your impressions and Diane's.

Chrissie You have told me you dislike dialects..... I love them if they are genuine, ie don't feel fake! That too is because I live in Europe and am used to different dialects. I LIKE how people are all a bit different. I could never go back to the US; it would be boring!

Laura It is boring. I would love to move to Europe. hehe

Laura I love a British accent. Absolutely love. And Australian too. And I enjoy a Jamaican accent also. Irish just doesn't always work for me. If I heard it more often, I would be used to it.

Chrissie I don't know how to advise you....

Laura I'll try it. Hopefully it'll work out.

message 45: by Chrissie (last edited Jun 21, 2013 10:29AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chrissie But Laura, if you try don't give up too soon. It gets better and better as you go. I am terribly worried if an Irish dialect is hard for you. I am also worried since you chose not to go back to the other McCann books. Each one of us is different. There is no right and wrong. It is just a matter of fitting the right book to the right person.

Me, I loved the book. Per didn't, but in fact I heard him chuckling there at the end. But we do not agree when we discuss the book.

ETA: I just read NYT book review on the book. They find the part about Hannah weak. Not me. I don't agree at all. I found her completely believable. I have yet to run into one person who doesn't react differently to the different parts of this book.

Maybe I love this book also because it is about people who are willing to pick themselves up and go somewhere else. And that is never, ever easy. It is exciting too.

message 46: by Laura (last edited Jun 21, 2013 10:58AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Laura Definitely. Picking up and going somewhere else is something I've dreamed of doing for years! In my case, I'd have to abandon my marriage to do it, which tends to make me stop and think lol.

I will persist with it. Thanks for the advice.

I think it's about matching the person with the book but even more, I think it's about matching the book with the person's mood. When I first tried Birds Without Wings, I could see it was a good book, but bad timing. Tried it again a couple of months later and loved it.

For me, it's always about the mood. Do you ever find that you try a book and dislike it, but then later it grabs you just right?

Chrissie I have never tried a book twice. I don't dump books quickly. I only dump them unless I absolutely cannot stand them. I worry that it will change and I will regret my decision. Some books have to be seen as a whole. You have to keep in mind that I do not have access to a library and that changes how you behave.

Laura You bet.

Diane S ☔ I too believe a person's mood has much to do with their enjoyment of a book. There are many books I have started and put aside only to come back to them months later and read them and loved them. I too did not much like airplanes but as I mentioned in my review, I enjoy everything he writes because he is such a visceral writer and his words are like poetry, simply beautiful.
I work in a library so I cannot imagine not having access to one. Yet we are so lucky that in this day and age, with the computer so many things are accessible that once were not. Imagine long ago, being an avid reader and not having much to choose from. I shudder.

message 50: by Cherie (new) - added it

Cherie I have to jump in here and tell all of you how much I have enjoyed just reading all of your comments.

It makes me so grateful for the internet and GR that I can sit at my computer and read/hear all of you thousands of miles away discussing not only a book, but life and family. All of us different, but all of us drawn together by text on a page and the chance to hear what someone felt and thought about what an author put into a story.

Thank you!

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