Saturday, 22 February 2014

Transatlantic: Colum McCann

Transatlantic: Colum McCann

Reviewed by Kathleen Jones

Historical/Contemporary Fiction

Transatlantic

by Colum McCann

Published by Bloomsbury
Kindle Price £3.08


The cottage sat at the edge of the Lough.  She could hear the wind and rain whipping across the expanse of open water.  It hit the tree and muscled its way into the grass.......

A friend lent me this book and I was so hooked I had to buy it on Kindle when I gave the book back.  It’s written in lyrical Irish prose that is almost poetry - a style that accommodates both internal monologue and external observation. There are several strands to a story that moves backwards and forwards in time across five generations of a family and from one side of the Atlantic to another.

It touches on the anti-slavery movement that became connected to women’s suffrage and the Irish republican cause. There’s a brief, but important, meeting between a former US slave and an Irish serving girl. Every detail is significant.  But it begins with the historic flight across the Atlantic made by Alcock and Brown, observed by two women - a journalist and a photographer. One of them gives a letter to Brown and asks him to post it when he reaches Ireland.  He agrees, but it is a very long time before the letter is ever opened.

At first I thought it was a series of linked short stories, but the weaving of the different strands became tighter as the novel developed and the relationship between the different narratives became clearer and more compulsive.  Very fine writing. It's good to know that commercial publishers are still publishing novels of this quality.

I really loved this book and it gets an extra star for the ‘wow’ factor.