Transatlantic is a new book by the acclaimed authour Colum McCann. I didn’t know he was a widely read writer when I picked the book (my bad) from a list of newly published works. I knew, from the summary provided, the book had something to do with the flight of Alcock and Brown, but strangely, the story seemed to be complete after the first chapter, like a short story.
I laboured on to the next chapter, another seeming short story having to do with relationships between North America and Ireland, this time seventy five years earlier. The third chapter leaps into the late twentieth century again with little, or no, apparent connection with the previous ones other than the theme of Atlantic crossings. Its not until the middle of the book that it begins to coalesce wonderfully, weaving itself into a tapestry of history and the lives affected by it.
Ireland is the main character and it was very cool to be reading the book while visiting the island. We had seen the field outside Clifden where Alcock and Brown landed. We visited houses in Dublin like the one Lily worked in. We saw lakes in Connemara much like the one described as the location of Lottie’s cottage. We had seen the Famine cottages and memorials throughout the country which now came to life in words. Transatlantic was another tour guide as we wandered the landscape and history of Ireland.
Visiting the country would not be a prerequisite to enjoying this book. The expert weaving of the story is enough to make the read very worthwhile, even without the on the ground value of its keen historical insights and commentary.