Friday, December 30, 2016

Completed: Transatlantic


I'm not even ashamed to admit that I looked at the 3 books I had left, booted one because it was too long (Master of the Senate, which I think has been on my list before. Maybe it's just time to give that one up?), and then when I saw the other 2 were almost the exact same length, I picked Transatlantic because the font was bigger and the spacing around the margins and between sentences was more generous. DESPERATE TIMES, KELLY.

Also, thought I'd give my suggested template a whirl:
Give a quick overview of the characters and plot. 
Following about 150 years of history through the eyes of folks visiting or from Ireland. In part 1, we meet 3 men who make the transatlantic trip to Ireland: the first two dudes to make the flight in like an airplane with no instruments, Frederick Douglass!, and Senator Mitchell who helps broker the peace accords for Northern Ireland. In parts 2 and 3, the lineage of women descended from a housemaid who meets Frederick Douglass and goes to America shortly after. Their lives bump into those of the male historical figures. 

Why did you pick this book? 
I liked his first novel, Let the Great World Spin, which was one of the first "real" books I remember reading after figuring out Darius was old enough that I didn't need to be constantly supervising him. 

How did you feel while reading this book?
Honestly, the second half of the book, the lives of the women were so much more interesting that I wondered why the framing device of the men were necessary. 

What’s something you thought the book did really well? How was it accomplished?
What is one thing that needs improvement in the book?
Going back to the question above: the "interconnectedness of everything" felt more forced in this book than it did in Let the Great World Spin. Perhaps the author was trying to make a point about meaning in men's lives being formed by their political actions, while women's lives are made meaningful by family? I don't know. It kind of irked me---both the contrived puzzle-like nature of the plot, and the ingrained sexism that prioritizes men's political achievements as a lens for framing history.  

Any symbolism­ in the text that you found meaningful?
Obviously the transatlantic crossings--by boat, by plane, alone, together, leaving family behind, etc. It was meditative in that way, lots of beautiful description about the strange arcs of a family, and of a life. 

Writing style­: Is the writing style simple or complex? How does this affect the story? 
One thing that is usually pretty interesting with multiple narrative characters is how the author makes them all sound or think differently. I thought McCann did nice work here. The section with Mitchell, for example, is short and choppy. It just "sounds" different than other sections, and I found myself wondering how much research and work must have done to achieve that. 

Tone/Mood/Theme: what is the author's attitude toward the subject of the book and the emotions that surround the story? 
I think one thing I did like about this novel is that many of the narratives were from characters who were older. As I get older, I appreciate novels that look at the span of a life. I quite liked the author's writing style and found his prose very moving, especially as the women dealt with the sorrows and tragedies of their lives. 

Overall: I enjoyed it. It was a solid novel.


  1. Lady Research-a-lot (yeah, that's me) went ahead and looked it up -- Master of the Senate has only been on your 2016 list. Guess it just feels like longer? Heh.

    Meanwhile... YAY!! YOU DID IT! I'll post Housekeeping today so you can wrap up your list with a bow and you can say goodbye to 2016. (As much as any of us can, I guess. >bwah< >bwah<)

    Did you think about the template before you read the book? Or did you just read it and then answer the questions? How did you feel about the template?

    Not sure if I'll wrap mine up inside of this calendar year. I've got seven posts to write (is that right? Oh, god. It is. It's okay. It's all I'm doing today) and a little bit of one book to finish. Then... F. Scott Fitzgerald On Writing. I just flipped through it and it looks like it's snippets from letters sooo... fast read, but maybe a little tough to write about? Oh, well. Doing IT!

    PS -- I'll publish our 2017 book post tomorrow. Did you know that Shelfari got sucked up by Goodreads this year? I had to use Photoshop to make our little shelf picture. It's the little things, you know?

  2. For our template, I suggest moving "Why did you pick this book?" to the first question, as that kind of takes the place of our old "Preview posts" -- whatcha think?

    Also, I've added a page with the Template questions and a link in the sidebar, so it's easy to find (and edit!)