Transatlantic – Colum McCann
Novels set in both Ireland and the USA like Brooklyn (now a film) are all the rage. Colm Toibin the author of Brooklyn leads the genre but Colum McCann runs him close. I very much enjoyed his Let the Great World Spin as did many as it became an international bestseller.
Transatlantic had been lying around on my kindle for some considerable time. I tend to download a novel and then read it and the longer it stays unread the less likely I am to read it. I do not why I decided to read it now. It starts with the first transatlantic flight of Alcock and Brown. As with many I suspect, my knowledge of these two aviators ends with the fact that they were pioneers. This opening section of the novel is rather technical of more interest to those unlike me interested in early aviation. Their flight is covered by mother and daughter journalists Emily and Lottie Ehrlich. It is the Ehrklich family that forms the thread of the novel. As with Let the Great World Spin which starts with the man that walked on the wire between buildings the writer engrafts onto a true event a fictional narration. The novel moves onto the daughter of Lottie, Hannah and her life during the Troubles. This I thought was the best part of the novel which I fond gripping. I won’t be a spoiler but a tragic event happens to Hannah. The other leitmotiv is a letter that Lottie ask Arthur Brown to deliver which he never does and is handed down unopened to Hannah.
Like many an Irish writer McCann has the gift of the pen. Even the very best like James Joyce seem happiest writing about Ireland but they do is with such a silvery style that you can only admire these wordsmiths. A canny editor might be suggesting to McCann that he writes a novel in the fashionable format of Ireland/USA but he delivers such an adept one that you cannot criticise him for exploitation. It would make rather a good film and there are enough talented Irish actresses to make it work.