Mysterious Book Report TransatlanticTransatlantic by Colum McCann

Random House, $27.00, 304 pages, ISBN 978-1-4000-6959-0by Colum McCann

Have you ever wondered about the word Genius?  What is it exactly?  Who determines it?  Where can we find it, where does it come from and how will we know when we see it?  These are just a few of the thoughts that come to mind when one thinks about the word and what it implies, or the status it confers upon the recipient.  The Oxford dictionary of American English defines genius as exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability, and after reading that, it’s certainly an apt description of this week’s author and his work of complex literary art . . .

Transatlantic, by Colum McCann ties together America and Ireland through the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries, using several different characters and their seemingly unrelated stories that the author neatly ties together to complete the transatlantic journey.  The novel begins in 1919, with the attempted non-stop transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to Europe by aviators Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown, who make it as far as Ireland before crashing their World War I bomber.  The next chapter opens in 1845 in Dublin, Ireland as we focus on the lecture tour of Frederick Douglas, speaking about his anti-slavery autobiography.  In part three, the reader is introduced, in 1998 in New York City, to Senator George Mitchell, as he hops back and forth between New York, Belfast, Northern Ireland and Washington, D.C. negotiating what became known as the ‘Good Friday Accord,’ ending the violence in Ireland which was known simply as ‘The Troubles,’ but was actually a guerilla war between Irish Catholics and Protestants, fighting about the reunification of the island nation and an end of 800 years of British occupation.  Throughout the novel, the stories of these three famous transatlantic crossings are woven together with a poignant tale of a common, but extraordinary, woman’s emmigration from Ireland to America, to escape the potato famine of 1847 and her descendants, who eventually get caught up in ‘The Troubles’ back in Ireland.

Transatlantic is complex, compelling and a masterful novel of high literary art; worthy of your time and reflection.  It is a thoughtful work from a master of the English language.  Although it’s outside of our usual mystery and crime fiction genre, this one calls for all reader’s attention.


John Dwaine McKenna