It might be tempting to interpret Colum McCann's brilliant novel, TransAtlantic, as a literary exercise in pointillism. After all, he presents us with a series of "dots" which slowly click into place and paint, when we take a step back, one breathtaking picture. But McCann, the winner of the National Book Award for his previous book, Let the Great World Spin, goes one step beyond. The "dots" here are not fuzzy and loosely pixelated. Instead each literary vignette is so precisely painted that there's beauty both when the camera zooms in and out.
Three historical events, transatlantic crossings, create the scaffolding for the story: Frederick Douglass visits Ireland in 1845, at the start of the potato famine and is impressed by Irish emancipator Daniel O'Connell; in 1919, aviators Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown make history as they try to be the first people to fly nonstop across the ...
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