Let the Great World Spin: Book summary and reviews of Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Let the Great World Spin

By Colum McCann

Let the Great World Spin
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  • Published in USA  Jun 2009,
    368 pages.

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Book Summary

In the dawning light of a late-summer morning, the people of lower Manhattan stand hushed, staring up in disbelief at the Twin Towers. It is August 1974, and a mysterious tightrope walker is running, dancing, leaping between the towers, suspended a quarter mile above the ground. In the streets below, a slew of ordinary lives become extraordinary in bestselling novelist Colum McCann’s stunningly intricate portrait of a city and its people

Let the Great World Spin is the critically acclaimed author's most ambitious novel yet: a dazzlingly rich vision of the pain, loveliness, mystery, and promise of New York City in the 1970s.

Corrigan, a radical young Irish monk, struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the middle of the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gather in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, only to discover just how much divides them even in grief. A young artist finds herself at the scene of a hit-and-run that sends her own life careening sideways. Tillie, a thirty-eight-year-old grandmother, turns tricks alongside her teenage daughter, determined not only to take care of her family but to prove her own worth.

Elegantly weaving together these and other seemingly disparate lives, McCann's powerful allegory comes alive in the unforgettable voices of the city’s people, unexpectedly drawn together by hope, beauty, and the "artistic crime of the century." A sweeping and radical social novel, Let the Great World Spin captures the spirit of America in a time of transition, extraordinary promise, and, in hindsight, heartbreaking innocence. Hailed as a "fiercely original talent" (San Francisco Chronicle), award-winning novelist McCann has delivered a triumphantly American masterpiece that awakens in us a sense of what the novel can achieve, confront, and even heal.

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Book Awards

  • award image National Book Awards, 2009

Reviews

Media Reviews

"[S]ometimes comes unfocused... but he succeeds in giving us a high-wire performance of style and heart." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. [A] wise and elegiac novel of origins and consequences, each of his finely drawn, unexpectedly connected characters balances above an abyss, evincing great courage with every step." - Booklist.

"Unfocused and overlong, though written with verve, empathy and stylistic mastery." - Kirkus Reviews

"In his own gritty and lyrical voice, Colum McCann has lifted up a handful of souls to the light in this big-hearted, adroit and probing novel, and brought forth a spectrum of the painful, the beautiful and the unexpected." – Amy Bloom, author of Away

"What a book! Complex and captivating … a very sensual novel." – John Boyne, author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

"Now I worry about Colum McCann. What is he going to do after this blockbuster groundbreaking heartbreaking symphony of a novel? No novelist writing of New York has climbed higher, dived deeper." – Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Sandra
And the world keeps turning
Unbelievable character development. Each chapter could be a short story. All parts tied together in the end.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Dana
Ended Up Loving This Book
I began reading this book for a reading club, and almost quit. It seemed so disjointed and I was completely confused. But deciding to read on, skimming whole paragraphs if necessary, I eventually felt as if this were a great jazz piece. Disparate themes with disparate characters, each giving a different variation on a theme, until I finally understood in whole. Parts which very poetic and so beautifully expressed. I find myself feeling deeply entwined with this tapestry of characters and life.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by varda ducovny
A book I never could have written, but wish that I could have
Usually when I read novel, I think it is something I might have written. Not so with Let the Great World Spin. In this fiction collage which meticulously explores the characters' vulnerabilities, McAnn achieves a poetic resonance which surpasses any fiction I've read in years. It is never pretentious or contrived, it simply hums with melancholy and sensitivity. It stays with me and makes me both sad and grateful.

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Author Information

Colum McCann Author Biography

Photo: Seamus Kearney

Colum McCann was born in Ireland in 1965. He is the author of six novels and two collections of stories. He has been the recipient of many international honours, including the National Book Award, the International Dublin Impac Prize, a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French government, election to the Irish arts academy, several European awards, the 2010 Best Foreign Novel Award in China, and an Oscar nomination. His work has been published in over 35 languages. He lives in New York with his wife, Allison, and their three children. He teaches at the MFA program in Hunter College.

Link to Colum McCann's Website

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