Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Let the Great World Spin

Let the Great World Spin
Colum McCann

On August 7, 1974, Philippe Petit's high-wire walk between the Twin Towers in New York City caught the attention of the world.  This single event connects many lives in Let the Great World Spin, the story of various characters whose stories intertwine and then separate again.

I had mixed feelings about this book.  I really enjoyed the individual stories and the different voices McCann gave his characters.  Their lives and experiences felt real and believable.  On the other hand, there wasn't really an overarching plot.  The book was more like a collection of tangentially connected short stories than a single, unified novel.  The plot lacked a goal or overall structure that a true novel needs.  I wouldn't have had a huge problem with that, even though short stories aren't really my thing, if the book didn't have the words "A Novel" in the description.  But that's only one aspect of the story.

The characters were all very different, from the Irish Corrigan brothers, one unsure of his role in life, one caught between his faith and the woman he loves, to the wealthy Claire Sonderberg, grieving a son lost in Vietnam, to the prostitute Tillie, who never wanted her daughter to follow in her footsteps.  These and others show the many faces of New York, with the story of the funambulist weaving through them all.

McCann's prose is beautiful and lyrical, words just enough to convey their meaning.  I liked his writing style very much; it took me into the characters' minds and showed me their lives. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I do recommend it.  Just don't necessarily expect it to have a point other than the ways the world is connected.

Characters: 4 cupcakes
Plot: 2 cupcakes
Style: 5 cupcakes
Overall: 3 cupcakes

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