Book Review: Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann

A spellbinding beginning, a bumpy, uneven ride, and then, a magnificent finish.

That pretty much sums up the 349-page novel. Using the real life tight-rope walk  between the World Trade Centre towers by Philippe Petit in 1974 as the backdrop, McCann weaves together vignettes illustrating how a single event can impact so many lives.

Corrigan, an Irish monk working in the Bronx- struggling with his love  for beautiful Adelita; Adelita, a courageous single mum, at a loss when it comes to Corrigan’s dilemma; Claire and Gloria – the former a white upper class housewife, the latter a black woman who has endured years of hardship, the two brought together by a common loss; Lara, a gorgeous artist tormented by drugs and guilt; Tillie- born to be a hooker and Jazzlyn her stunning daughter- a baby herself and yet who already walks the streets and is a mother of two. One high-wire walk, one fatal car accident, and the lives of all these people entangled in one big mess.

I love McCann’s writing – his descriptions are simple but evoke powerful imagery, his prose’s so pretty, it’s almost poetic. The story is told with different chapters offering perspectives from individual characters, and depending on the tale he or she has to tell, the book is at times funny, at times heart-warming, at times tragic, at times dull, and at times, just plain puzzling. Towards the end – set in post Sep 11 New York – , things become clear, and there is this wondrous feeling to be enjoyed when you realise what a feat McCann has pulled off in linking all the characters together. The result is a good read which is heartwrenching but not hopeless, and which leaves the reader emotionally drained, yet strangely satisfied.

Am off today. Has been a very hectic two weeks, and boy, to able to stay home and really, just rot away, that rocks.


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