The latest novel by Irish literary writer Colum McCann deals with iconic voyages in such a mature and thoughtful way that its power and its finesse come like a slow drip of beautiful poison. "Transatlantic: A Novel" tells its story between different continents, and spans across centuries as identities are lost and found.
A big award winner, and youthful writer, McCann has been able to bring a sensitivity to his writing - characters that at first feel unresolved then battle and strife as they declared themselves anew. What brings this resonance of sensitivity to the surface is not only the small details and delicate imagery that McCann creates, but also in contrast the ability to show a reader a 'step back' or a bigger picture without losing focus on the subtleties present.
He speaks about how "nothing finishes" in the novel and demonstrates this with the future becoming the past, and the past informing the future: creeping up on readers, as the novel becomes an announcement for liberation. Freedom from a country, from a partner, from an ideal and from a belief system all seem to become more and more vital as the pages continue.
It is McCann with his short concise sentences of almost poetic charm that spreads through love, family ties and all of this across the now bigger then ever ocean. Women with letters, men as pilots and a photograph all develop in a dark room as the author kneads and kneads to tell his story. McCann knows what he does best, and that is an interwoven story that reveals wisdom about mankind and acts as an ultimate mirror for us. As we search so desperately for hope, even a trace, McCann takes this trace and sparkles it up into the air as the aviators in his story fly, and the women in his novel unsnarl.
McCann's love for words is evident in John Cusatis' study, "Understanding Colum McCann," where he quotes McCann who says the book he enjoyed most as a child was the 1972's "The Second-Best Children in the World" by the Irish writer Mary Lavin and calls the memory of it "like bread coming out of the oven."
And that is what "Transatlantic" feels like too, fresh, cozy and homely. Enjoyed with a good spread of jam and butter.
"Transatlantic: A Novel"
by Colum McCann