Aug 202016


By Colum McCann

Three Stars

Read June 2014

TransAtlantic is less a novel than a series of loosely-related short stories spanning 150 years in the connections between Ireland and America. American readers who are not well-versed in Irish history may not find much that interests them here beyond McCann’s often wonderful language because that knowledge may be essential to “get” the connections explored in the stories. The novel includes historical figures, including American abolitionist and freed slave Frederick Douglass, former U.S. Senator and peace negotiator George Mitchell, and the aviators who made the first transAtlantic flight. Their visits to Ireland are threaded together by the stories of four generations of Irish women who move between Ireland and the United States, leading hard lives that are tragic in their own ways. However, for me end those stories didn’t really add up to a clear emotional payoff in the end but instead left me with the same bittersweet melancholy of the individual parts.