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A Globe & Mail 100 Selection
“One story is all stories,” says Colum McCann, author of the award-winning Let the Great World Spin
In his remarkable new novel, Colum McCann masterfully reaches across the centuries to braid together three unforgettable stories. In 1845, Frederick Douglass, a black American slave, lands in Ireland to champion ideas of democracy and freedom, only to find a famine unfurling around him. In 1919, two brave young airmen emerge from the carnage of World War I to pilot the first transatlantic flight from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to the west of Ireland. And in 1998 an American senator criss-crosses the ocean in search of a lasting peace in Ireland.
Taking these stories as his point of departure, Colum McCann weaves together the lives of Douglass, Alcock and Brown and Senator George Mitchell in a tapestry that is both ambitious and unforgettable.
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, June 2013: McCann’s stunning sixth novel is a brilliant tribute to his loamy, lyrical and complicated Irish homeland, and an ode to the ties that, across time and space, bind Ireland and America. The book begins with three transatlantic crossings, each a novella within a novel: Frederick Douglas’s 1845 visit to Ireland; the 1919 flight of British aviators Alcock and Brown; and former US senator George Mitchell’s 1998 attempt to mediate peace in Northern Ireland. McCann then loops back to 1863 to launch the saga of the women we’ve briefly met throughout Book One, beginning with Irish housemaid Lily Duggan, whose bold escape from her troubled homeland cracks open the world for her daughter and granddaughter. The language is lush, urgent, chiseled and precise; sometimes languid, sometimes kinetic. At times, it reads like poetry, or a dream. Choppy sentences. Two-word declaratives. Arranged into stunning, jagged tableaux. Bleak, yet hopeful. (Describing Lily’s first view of America: “New York appeared like a cough of blood.”) The finale is a melancholy set piece that ties it all together--an unopened letter, “passed from daughter to daughter, and through a succession of lives,” becomes the book’s mysterious token, an emblem of a world grown smaller. McCann reminds us that life is hard, and it is a wonder, and there is hope. --Neal ThompsonAbout the Author:
COLUM McCANN is the internationally bestselling author of seven novels and three collections of stories. His most recent novel, TransAtlantic, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and his previous novel, Let the Great World Spin, won the National Book Award and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His fiction has been published in thirty-five languages. He lives in New York City with his wife and their three children.
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