TransAtlantic by Colum McCann, narrated by Geraldine Hughes, reads like a collection of interconnected stories, beginning in 1919 following WWI. Aviators Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown set course for Ireland from Newfoundland to heal old wounds after WWI, but before readers are engaged enough, the story shifts to 1845 when Frederick Douglass is on an international lecture tour in Ireland about the abolitionist cause. This portion of the book was the most engaging, where Douglass’ fears of being called slurs or targeted for the color of his skin is top of mind, even in nation where the Irish long for freedom from oppression.
The hardships of the famine would seem to bring the Irish and Douglass to the same side of freedom, but there are too many obstacles. As the novel moves to more modern stories, including Senator George Mitchell’s trip to Belfast to broker peace in the late 1990s, the chance meetings and encounters have clearly had lasting effects on history, even if their details have been forgotten or lost. Connecting all of these stories are women — Irish housemaid Lily Duggan, mother and daughter Emily and Lottie, and Hannah Carson.
The narration by Geraldine Hughes is flawless, and she never once pulled me out of the story. She carefully narrated each interconnected story, and the novel took on a cohesion that was unexpected. However, readers may want to pick up a print copy of this so they do not miss any of the nuance in McCann’s writing.
TransAtlantic by Colum McCann, narrated by Geraldine Hughes, is a sweeping book that speaks to the minor moments in our lives and how they can have ripple effects across the ocean and across history.
About the Author:
Colum McCann is the author of two collections of short stories and four novels, including “This Side of Brightness,””Dancer” and “Zoli,” all of which were international best-sellers. His newest novel “Let the Great World Spin” will come out in 2009. His fiction has been published in 26 languages and has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, GQ, Paris Review and other places. He has written for numerous publications including The Irish Times, Die Zeit, La Republicca, Paris Match, The New York Times, the Guardian and the Independent.