Writing about the books I love the most is difficult. I feel like I can’t convey the way it made me feel to read such an amazing book. TransAtlantic by Colum McCann is definitely one of those. Although I loved Bring up the Bodies I think this is by far my favorite novel of 2013.
To be honest I am not one of those readers who can sit and read a book all day, who stays up all night trying to get through one more chapter, and one more. I read in short spurts because my mind wanders and my body gets restless. But McCann’s novel grabbed onto my pathetic attention span and wouldn’t let go. I stayed up late reading from sheer enjoyment for the first time in ages.
The beauty and economy of his language grab you first. He can say in 10 words what I would say in 60. Plus his language is gorgeous and I couldn’t stop reading it. It flows like a poem with every word chosen for its perfection.
The characters are the second highlight. In a sense this is historical fiction because his four main characters in the first half of the book are prominent figures–George Mitchell (diplomat of the Good Friday Accords), Frederick Douglass, Alcock and Brown (pilots of the first non-stop Transatlantic flight)–but it is amazing how human he makes them. George Mitchell was especially an accomplishment considering he is still alive and able to tell his own stories. The second half of the book focuses on a fabulous family of women whose lives touched and intersected with these famous men.
Finally there is the story. He is describing the crossings and connections in our lives, in terms of our transatlantic heritage (huge academic buzz word nowadays), but also how individuals influence and impact each other. While at times it seems he stretching a bit to make these lives intertwine, I liked the people and wanted to know what would happen so much that I was willing to go along. The last chapter in particular felt a bit slow because he is trying to set up a new crossing, but by then I was willing to let him take me wherever.
This is my favorite book of 2013 so far. I’ve been recommending it to everyone. Worth the read and it is not a trilogy.