Genre: Literary Fiction
Review in a word: Boring
Opening line: “It was a modified bomber.”
I’ve been trying to write this review since I finished the book on July 19. Obviously, it hasn’t been going well. I have a hard time writing about books that I feel mostly apathetic toward.
I have to give Colum McCann credit for the organization of the book; that in itself is a huge accomplishment. The book is separated into six parts, each with a different narrator. The first three parts are narrated by famous men (Jack Alcock & Teddy Brown, Frederick Douglass, and Senator George Mitchell), and the last three are narrated by three generations of women—grandmother, mother, and daughter—who each have ties to the male narrators. Each part has its own journey spanning the Atlantic, from the U.S. or Canada to Ireland.
Part of what I did enjoy about the book was starting each part and wondering, “Who am I going to meet, and how does this person connect to the others?” It definitely succeeds in drawing connections between the characters. I was reminded of A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks in the tone and somber writing style. But, unfortunately, Transatlantic just wasn’t as entertaining.
It started strong with Jack and Teddy’s famous flight across the Atlantic. That was the most riveting account of flying I’ve ever read—far surpassing even the descriptions in The Aviator’s Wife. I want to keep my copy of this book just so that I can re-read that first part. But, unfortunately, things rapidly deteriorated. I read Frederick Douglass’s account with curiosity but wasn’t impressed, and by the time I got to George Mitchell I was struggling. If it wasn’t for my guilt over not finishing books and my persistent hope that maybe it’ll pick up again, I would’ve put it down much earlier.
Meh. I’ve read a few very positive reviews of this book, and some of my friends have said they adored it. So my opinion should not stop you from reading it if it’s your style. But if I had known, I would’ve stopped after the first part.