Friday, September 24, 2010

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Let the Great World Spin features a cast of characters who are vaguely connected to each other. It opens with a tightrope walker performing his feat between the World Trade Centre towers. Along the way, other characters emerge: Corrigan, a monk; Claire, the mother of a dead solider; Blaine and his girlfriend, both artists; Sam, Compton and the others, computer techs; Tillie, a prostitute; a judge and a few others.

I heard such good things about this book before I picked it up, so it had a lot to live up to. It wasn't quite what I expected, but it didn't disappoint me at all. In fact, I loved it. The book is multifaceted, emotional and very compelling. It reads like a series of short stories with seemingly little connection between them. However, as you get further into the book the connections reveal themselves. It's sort of like six degrees of separation game, where everyone is connected to everyone else, even though some of those connections are obscure.

The eclectic characters in the book each tell his/her story. Slowly but surely they come together to become one cohesive unit. I warmed up to some of the stories right away (Corrigan's story), while others took awhile (Claire and the other mothers story) to register with me. Most, if not all, of the stories come back to the tightrope walker. [ I'm sure there's some symbolism there about balance or danger or something or other.] While I didn't notice a huge difference in writing style from one story to the next, the different character voices came through. It's through these characters that a picture of New York appears. I tend to think of New York City in terms of the city itself (concrete, crowded, busy) rather than the people who live there. This book made me realize that the city is more than all of that stuff.

There are so many layers in this story, I'm sure there's a lot more to it than I got from my first reading. I rarely reread books, but I think in this case I would get a lot more out of it the second time around.

This book make a great book club book. I'm sure there would be many different reactions to it, making for a lively discussion.

My favourite quote pretty much sums up the book for me:
It never occurred to me before but everything in New York is built upon another thing, nothing is entirely by itself, each thing as strange as the last, and connected. (page 306)

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the HarperCollins Canada website.

For more information about the author and his other books, please visit Colum McCann's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins Canada for this review copy.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, HarperCollins, ©2009. ISBN 9781554684830(Trade paperback), 349p.

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