Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann – #Audiobook Review – #TBT

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Let the Great World Spin - Banner

A Reading Ireland Month book

“The world spins. We stumble on. It is enough.”

Book Blurb:

In the dawning light of a late-summer morning, the people of lower Manhattan stand hushed, staring up in disbelief at the Twin Towers. It is August 1974, and a mysterious tightrope walker is running, dancing, leaping between the towers, suspended a quarter-mile above the ground. In the streets below, a slew of ordinary lives become extraordinary in best-selling novelist Colum McCann’s stunningly intricate portrait of a city and its people.

Let the Great World Spin is the critically acclaimed author’s most ambitious novel yet: a dazzlingly rich vision of the pain, loveliness, mystery, and promise of New York City in the 1970s. 

My Review:

It was in August 1974 when 24 year old Frenchman Philippe Petit made it his “le coup” to illegally walk on a high wire across the top of the twin towers a total of eight times, the “artistic crime of the century.” And the feat was so bizarre, so over-the-top astounding that a film was released about it October 2015 called “The Walk.” I wrote a short article about the headline capturing story on July 2, 2016, not knowing that Colum McCann released this book in January 16, 2015. To be fair, I have not viewed the film.

It wasn’t long before I realized the book was about a particular group of people who may (or may not) have been impacted by this stupendous feat. The first half of the book is very slow, and for me, disjointed. I was trying to figure out how these characters had anything to do with the event that was unfolding before their eyes, or in some other unrelated capacity, connecting them. Indeed, for quite some time it didn’t.

It wasn’t a book about the feat itself or the man who walked the high wire. It was a deep-diving story that eventually begins to form a wire itself—uniting the stories of those five or six of the sixteen plus million people in mid-70s New York City.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCannYou probably couldn’t find a more disparate group of people to dissect, from Irish priest (okay, monk), to mother and daughter hookers. Tillie’s story is graphic and profane but at least she finally breathed some much needed energy into a novel long in the tooth, reveling in finding a topic and expanding on it sixteen different ways, “the wind of the…, the trees of the…, the whatever…eventually just feels like filler to me and indeed, this narrative manages to extend beyond fifteen hours. Not a style I particularly enjoy—the constant philosophizing. It seemed dark, depressing. And when I thought it would get on with the story simply introduced yet another new character that was then studied to within of that life with no discernible bond to any of the previous characters.

I especially had a problem with the “Nam” references since the CE is a veteran of that era; we lived through it. But at least I could identify with the gold star mothers since I lost a brother during that time, not as a mother, but a sister. A pain that gradually dulls but never lets go and also gripped the mothers in this emotional support group.

The author does draw the characters finally together in a cohesive, sensitive manner—a study of the people, of the time. Perhaps not the event, but event driven? In the end, we also get the inside story of the judge, laid open and bare, warts and all, the storyline tied by his wife’s support group, while he’s ecstatic he got the defendant of the year in his court–sufficient to relieve his judicial boredom.

Well, mercy. One final stinging epithet.

Book Details:

Genre: Urban Fiction, Fiction Urban Life, Family Life Fiction
Publisher: Random House Audio
ASIN: B00SC80QC4
Listening Length: 15 hrs 15 mins
Narrator(s): Richard PoeGerard DoyleCarol MondaJohanna ParkerRamon De Ocampo
Publication Date: January 16, 2015
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Let the Great World Spin [Amazon]

 

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Three-point Five Stars 3 1/2 stars

 

Colum McCann - authorThe Author: [Goodreads] Colum McCann is the author of three collections of short stories and six novels, including “Apeirogon,” due to be published in Spring 2020. His other books include “TransAtlantic,” “Let the Great World Spin,” “This Side of Brightness,””Dancer” and “Zoli,” all of which were international best-sellers.

“Let the Great World Spin” won the National Book Award in 2009. His fiction has been published in over 40 languages and has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, GQ, Paris Review and other places. He has written for numerous publications including The Irish Times, Die Zeit, La Republicca, Paris Match, The New York Times, the Guardian and the Independent.

Colum has won numerous international awards and has been a bestseller on four continents. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as the Irish association of artists, Aosdana. He has also received a Chevalier des Artes et des Lettres from the French government. He is the cofounder of the global non-profit story exchange organisation Narrative 4.

In 2003 Colum was named Esquire magazine’s “Writer of the Year.” Other awards and honors include a Pushcart Prize, the Rooney Prize, the Irish Independent Hughes and Hughes/Sunday Independent Novel of the Year 2003, and the 2002 Ireland Fund of Monaco Princess Grace Memorial Literary Award. He was recently inducted into the Hennessy Hall of Fame for Irish Literature.

His short film “Everything in this Country Must,” directed by Gary McKendry, was nominated for an Academy Award Oscar in 2005.

Colum was born in Dublin in 1965 and began his career as a journalist in The Irish Press. In the early 1980’s he took a bicycle across North America and then worked as a wilderness guide in a program for juvenile delinquents in Texas. After a year and a half in Japan, he and his wife Allison moved to New York where they currently live with their three children, Isabella, John Michael and Christian.

Colum teaches in Hunter College in New York, in the Creative Writing program, with fellow novelists Peter Carey and Tea Obreht.

Colum has completed his new novel, “Apeirogon.” Crafted out of a universe of fictional and nonfictional material, McCann tells the story of Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan. One is Israeli. One is Palestinian. Both are fathers. Both have lost their daughters to the conflict. When Bassam and Rami learn of each other’s stories they recognize the loss that connects them, and they begin to use their grief as a weapon for peace.

In the novel McCann crosses centuries and continents. He stitches together time, art, history, nature and politics in a tale both heartbreaking and hopeful. Musical, cinematic, muscular, delicate and soaring, Apeirogon is a novel for our times.

Sign up for Colum’s newsletter: http://bit.ly/mccannsignup

Website: http://www.colummccann.com

©2022 V Williams V Williams

#throwbackthursday

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan – #Audiobook Review – #TuesdayBookBlog

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

A Reading Ireland Month bookSt Patty's Day Hat

“Heavy is the head that wears a crown.” 

Book Blurb:

It is 1985 in a small Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal merchant and family man, faces into his busiest season. Early one morning, while delivering an order to the local convent, Bill makes a discovery that forces him to confront both his past and the complicit silences of a town controlled by the church. 

Already an international bestseller, Small Things Like These is a deeply affecting story of hope, quiet heroism, and empathy from one of our most critically lauded and iconic writers.

My Review:

Released just in time for Christmas last year, this beautiful tome should have been described as a novella—as you can see–even the audiobook is very short.

Small Things Like These by Claire KeeganIt is, upfront, an unapologetic tale of the Magdalene Laundries and the Catholic Church nuns who administer the enterprise, now having been exposed as a shameful part of Irish history.

Bill Furlong was the child of an unwed mother who was under the employ of a well-to-do widow. The child and his mother were allowed to stay and he grew up under the roof of the kind widow. Bill eventually marries and has five daughters of his own. He has become a successful entrepreneur providing coal to homes in his village for heating. One of his customers is the large monastery where delivering coal just before Christmas he discovers by accident a young girl who begs him to help her escape the nunnery. He cannot at that moment but is haunted by what he saw.

Oh, my… This emotional and poignant little narrative seems to be deeply character-driven while it craftily lays out a powerful indictment on one hand and the generous magnitude of a man with five daughters of his own on the other. The story carefully paints the beauty of the time of year, the level of humanity exhibited by the townspeople in the spirit of the season, and juxtaposed the horrific conditions of the girls in the nunnery. It’s a heart-wrenching vision that tears at the emotions.

It’s a story that has you wondering where it’s going while it quietly lays out the backstory sufficient to give you the moral code engrained in Furlong. So perhaps the conclusion doesn’t come as a big surprise as much as the abrupt end to the tale. I guess you don’t really need a picture—you can fill the rest in—and each reader will do so in their own way.

A sweet little piece that has you reeled in only to realize after it ended how special it is.

Book Details:

Genre: Holiday Fiction, Small Town & Rural Fiction, British and Irish Literary Fiction
Publisher: HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
ASIN: B09N42GCTT
Listening Length: 1 hr 57 mins
Narrator: Aidan Kelly
Publication Date: December 17, 2021
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Small Things Like These [Amazon]

 

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four of Five Stars 4 1/2 stars

 

Claire Keegan - authorThe Author: CLAIRE KEEGAN was raised on a farm in Ireland. Her stories have won numerous awards and are translated into more than twenty languages. Antarctica won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature and was chosen as a Los Angeles Times Book of the Year. Walk the Blue Fields won the Edge Hill Prize for the finest collection of stories published in the British Isles. Foster, after winning the Davy Byrnes Award—then the world’s richest prize for a story—was recently selected by The Times UK as one of the top 50 novels to be published in the 21st century. Her stories have been published in the New YorkerThe Paris ReviewGranta, and Best American Stories. Keegan is now holding the Briena Staunton Fellowship at Pembroke College, Cambridge. [Amazon]

[Goodreads: Claire Keegan was born in Wexford in 1968. A member of Aosdána, she lives in Co. Wexford. Photo attribute]

© V Williams V Williams

Reading Ireland Month 2021

Murder on an Irish Farm (An Irish Village Mystery Book 8) by Carlene O’Connor – #BookReview – #cozymystery

Book Blurb:

The wedding of Siobhán O’Sullivan and Macdara Flannery in the village of Kilbane in County Cork, Ireland, comes to an abrupt halt when the skeleton of a groom is unearthed . . .

Murder on an Irish Farm by Carlene O'ConnorIf only her mother could be here! The entire O’Sullivan brood—not to mention the regulars from Naomi’s Bistro—have gathered at St. Mary’s Church for the wedding of Siobhán and Macdara. It’s not every day you see two garda marrying each other. Only Siobhán’s brother James is missing. They can’t start without him.

But when James finally comes racing in, he’s covered in dirt and babbling he’s found a human skeleton in the old slurry pit at the farmhouse. What farmhouse? Macdara sheepishly admits he was saving it as a wedding surprise: he purchased an abandoned dairy farm. Duty calls, so the engaged garda decide to put the wedding on hold to investigate.

James leads them to a skeleton clothed in rags that resemble a tattered tuxedo. As an elderly neighbor approaches, she cries out that these must be the remains of her one true love who never showed up on their wedding day, fifty years ago. The garda have a cold case on their hands, which heats up the following day when a fresh corpse appears on top of the bridegroom’s bones. With a killer at large, they need to watch their backs—or the nearly wedded couple may be parted by death before they’ve even taken their vows. 

My Review:

Here I am again with a favorite series for the #BEGORRAHTHON in honor of the annual celebration of Reading Ireland Month (March). Of course, this one lands somewhat early in the year, but no problem, I always enjoy these quirky cozy mysteries.

I began with Book 4 of the series and managed to catch each successive entry through Book 7 last year, Murder in an Irish Bookshop. The author’s sense of humor and strong Irish flavor in her writing style never fails to keep me engaged and entertained.

Murder on an Irish Farm by Carlene O'ConnorBook 8 finds Siobhan O’Sullivan and Macdara Flannery excited about their wedding day and poised to walk up the aisle when brother James arrives disarrayed and dirty to announce a skeleton has been found on the property Macdara just bought. Rather than proceed with the nuptials or postpone for an hour while they investigate, they totally call off the wedding. Talk about garda dedication—no way on earth I’d have done that! A skeleton?

Has been there for awhile. It’ll keep a few minutes longer.

The skeleton is in a slurry pit—oh UGH! If not before, right there, I’d have bowed out. (Where’s my gas mask?) The problem is that it is the body of a groom (Tommy) intended also to have been wed that same day—50 years ago. Uh oh. I don’t believe in coincidences. (Do you?)

As you can imagine, the storyline takes on a complicated tack and proceeds to become more complex as they find one clue only to have it open fifty more questions. They won’t want for suspects, really, and especially after a second (but fresh) body is found, the clues become more pointed, narrowed, eliminating one then the other from suspicion. (Well, still suspicious, but good alibis anyway.) And did I mention the small but poignant missing or unaccounted for 30 grand (Euros?)?

No matter. My love for this series is the two gardai, their communication with each other, the sense of humor, and the strong large family (keep them together) theme. Yes, Dara knows what he’s getting into. The mysteries are good ones, always interesting and I learn something, but I love the setting, the peek into rural Irish life, the countryside, and the food. My only reservation this time was the extended conclusion wrapping up all loose ends–every one of them.

And did they finally get married? Yes! If I’d spent boo-koo bucks getting there for the one postponed, however, not sure I’d have wanted to do that all over again. Thinking it was smaller than intended maybe? Oh yes, and I miss a pronunciation key—how in the world is Siobhan pronounced?

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author and publisher through @NetGalley that in no way influenced this review. These are my honest thoughts.

A 2-22-22 release sure to be a fun, fast hit. Currently on pre-order.

Rosepoint Rating: Four point Five Stars 4 1/2 stars

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Book Details:

Genre: International Mystery & Crime, Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Kensington Cozies
ASIN: B0964F2G1Y
Print Length: 322 pages
Publication Date: February 22, 2022
Source: Publisher and NetGalley 

Title Link(s):

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo

Carlene O'Connor - authorThe Author: Carlene O’Connor comes from a long line of Irish storytellers. Her great-grandmother emigrated from Ireland to America during the Troubles, and the stories have been flowing ever since. Of all the places across the pond she’s wandered, she fell most in love with a walled town in County Limerick and was inspired to create the town of Kilbane, County Cork. Carlene currently divides her time between New York and the Emerald Isle.

http://www.carleneoconnor.com

©2022 V Williams V Williams

Enjoy Your Sunday

The Shortest Day by Colm Toíbín – A #BookReview – Literature & Fiction – #readingirelandmonth21 – #TuesdayBookBlog

Our first contribution to this years’ #begorrahthon

Book Blurb:

The Shortest Day by Colm ToibinIn Ireland, a man of reason is drawn to a true mystery older than the Pyramids and Stonehenge in this enthralling story about ethereal secrets by New York Times bestselling author Colm Tóibín.

During the winter solstice, on the shortest day and longest night of the year, the ancient burial chamber at Newgrange is empowered. Its mystifying source is a haunting tale told by locals.

Professor O’Kelly believes an archaeologist’s job is to make known only what can be proved. He is undeterred by ghost stories, idle speculation, and caution. Much to the chagrin of the living souls in County Meath. As well as those entombed in the sacred darkness of Newgrange itself. They’re determined to protect the secret of the light, guarded for more than five thousand years. And they know O’Kelly is coming for it.

His Review:

Can archaeologists be considered scientists or grave robbers? Colm Toibin explores this question in this book. A site in Ireland called Newgrange or Bru’ na Boinne was built 3200 years before Christ as a resting place for those who have passed on. Professor O’Kelly is exploring the site and trying to decipher the meaning on various carved rock slabs at the site.

The Shortest Day by Colm ToibinThe spirits who inhabit the site are not particularly fond of this meddling educator. The secret of the site is the inclusion of light once a year that allows a spiritual energy rebirth for the inhabitants. This happens on the winter solstice when the entire chamber is alight. The local town folk prefer that the interloper stay away but he does not take the hint. The overall feeling is to let the dead rest in peace!

I enjoyed the interplay between the spirits and Professor O’Kelly. One of the more traveled of the spirits warns the others as the Professor comes near. Clever anecdotes between the spirits add a flavor of community to the site and are humorous to read. Road blocks are thrown in the professors’ way to help keep him from discovering the overall secret of the structure.

This quick read begs the question; should graves be exhumed or desecrated for historical and/or scientific knowledge? Many great treasures have been found in graves and monuments built thousands of years ago. True, we do learn some things from these discoveries but at what cost to the original inhabitants and their intent? The argument that we can discover how they lived during that time period doesn’t seem to be strongly valid to me. Exhuming a corpse, grave, or sarcophagus for historical knowledge seems a very selfish and weak argument.

The small town near the structure has kept the secret of the design of the structure. Shouldn’t mankind show the same reverence and consideration? 4 stars – C.E. Williams

Rosepoint Publishing: Four of Five Stars 4 stars 

Book Details:

Genre: 45-Minute Literature & Fiction Short Reads, Kindle Singles Literature & Fiction, Literary Short Stories
Publisher: Amazon Original Stories

  • ASIN : B08GBPRXQC

Print Length: 31 pages
Publication Date: November 3, 2020
Source: Local Library
Title Link: The Shortest Day [Amazon] 

Add to Goodreads

 

Colm Toibin - authorThe Author: Colm Tóibín is the author of four previous novels, The South, The Heather Blazing, The Story of the Night, and The Blackwater Lightship, which was shortlisted for the 1999 Booker Prize. He lives in Dublin.

©2021 CE Williams – V Williams

 

 

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