Colum McCann: TransAtlantic

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The latest addition to my website is Colum McCann‘s TransAtlantic. This novel was longlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize. The novel is in two parts. The first part tells of three sets of people travelling from North America to Ireland – Alcock and Brown, the first to fly the Atlantic non-stop, Frederick Douglass and Senator George Mitchell who was a broker for the Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement. In all cases, they meet a fictitious Irish woman and, as we learn in the second part, all these women are related – mother, daughter and granddaughter. We follow their stories, from Lily Duggan who walked from Dublin to Cork and then on to Cobh, in order to get a ship to the United States, and then her subsequent life – she works as a nurse in the US Civil War and then she and her husband make a success in the ice business. Her daughter, Emily, is a journalist reporting the Alcock and Brown take-off and Emily’s daughter, Lottie, plays tennis with Senator Mitchell. We even have a McGuffin in the form of a letter given to Brown to take on his flight, which he fails to deliver, and is passed from daughter to daughter, unopened. However, though it is an interesting idea, overall it did not really work for me, with the historical characters being flat.

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