Book Review – ‘Transatlantic’ by Colum McCann

Spanning three centuries and two continents, Colum McCann’s latest work is a dazzling meditation on the links across time and place, a series of interwoven stories on how people influence and inspire strangers they only meet fleetingly, the enduring pull of his Irish homeland, and the continuing fallout of the Northern Ireland conflict and peace process.

The first and most action-packed vignette is a vivid imagining of the first non-stop transatlantic flight in 1919. With the lyricism and economy of a poet, McCann sketches out the personalities of the two men: Jack Alcock, a dashing and fearless figure who craves anonymity, and the more reserved Teddy Brown, who enjoys quantifying things and sees the world in scientific terms. Alcock was a prisoner of war and Brown walks with a stick and ”already seemed old at 32”. Both are aching for a new start and find it in the flight to Ireland.

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Book Review – The Narrow Road to the Deep North (2013)

“A happy man has no past” Dorrigo Evans thinks, ”while an unhappy man has nothing else.” The Narrow Road to the Deep North moves like liquid back and forth through his past and present, both of which are dominated by his experience as a prisoner of war on the Thai-Burma Death Railway.

In his youth in Tasmania, he plays Australian Rules football, and he finds something transcendent in its mixture of toughness and grace: ”All his life had been journeying to this point when he had for a moment flown into the sun”.

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