01 August, 2012

If there's one book you must read... Week #17

Book #17 -- Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Chosen by me :)

This week I've decided to recommend the book that my Mum and I have been reading for book club. This is the first meeting I've been to and so I'm excited to see what's said etc. 

My thoughts: When I first started to read this book it really reminded me of James Joyce's Dubliners. The first chapter, 'All Respects to Heaven, I Like It Here', begins in Dublin depicting the lives of two brothers. This snippet of Dublin life was, for me, really reminiscent of Dubliners portraying so many recurring motifs in not only Joyce's work but Irish literature as a whole; that of saint-like mother, absent father, religion, and eventual emigration of the younger generation. As the book progressed it kept that Dubliners feel, dipping in and out of people's lives, changing between first and third person narration almost alternately at the beginning of each new chapter. However, Let The Great World Spin, goes deeper than mere snippets of life, it shows how a handfull of people from varying social backgrounds can become a part of each other's lives, with the central image of a tightrope walker, walking between the World Trade Centre towers, bringing them together.

Amazon blurb: 'It's New York, August 1974: a man is walking in the sky. Between the newly built Twin Towers, the man twirls through the air. Far below, the lives of complete strangers spin towards each other: Corrigan, a radical Irish monk working in the Bronx; Claire, a delicate Upper East Side housewife reeling from the death of her son; Lara, a drug-addled young artist; Gloria, solid and proud despite decades of hardship; Tillie, a hooker who used to dream of a better life; and Jazzlyn, her beautiful daughter raised on promises that reach beyond the skyline of New York. In the shadow of one reckless and beautiful act, these disparate lives will collide, and be transformed for ever.'

Book clubbers' thoughts (added after the meeting, on Monday): Everyone really enjoyed the book, some found McCann's use of lists a bit taxing and thought the ending was possibly a bit twee. We also discussed whether the book can be considered as a post 9:11 novel, personally I didn't think so as I couldn't get past my own comparisons with Dubliners. Others, however, thought it was really interesting that despite the World Trade Centre towers being to central to the novel, 9:11 itself wasn't mentioned at all. Perhaps only in the subtle reference to heightened airport security later in the novel in 2006.

I'd never heard of this book before reading it and if I'm honest I find it hard to find modern literature that I want to read, it so often seems like a rehash of something that's been done before (better), perhaps I'm a modern literature snob? Either way I was very pleasantly surprised at how beautifully this book was written, McCann's vocabulary and phrasing in particular is, at times, superb and incredibly poetic and evocative. 

Have you read this book? I'd be really interested to know what you thought, let me know in the comments. Plus if you have a brilliant book that you consider a 'must read' let me know what it is via twitter :)


Buy from Amazon.

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