Sunday, 6 June 2010

Bloggers Book Club Review: Let the World Spin, by Colum McGann

I was very much looking forward to reading this book after reading the synopsis and other reviews of the book. I love the idea of the lives of eight strangers being linked together, and was looking forward to finding out how, and about the people and their lives. I also saw a documentary about Colum McGann a few weeks ago, just after I had started to read this book, in which he said that he wrote the book as his way of interpreting what had happened in 9/11.

Before I go any further though, I have to say that this book took me longer to read than any book I've read in a long long time. For someone who read the twilight series of 4 books within 5 days (i.e. with a book I love, I can't put it down and it doesn't take me long to read), this is quite frustrating. I found I was really pushed for time this month even though I started the book before the last book review was written, I didn't finish it until a week ago. This is probably a good reflection on my opinion of the book.

Frank McCourt has said "No novelist writing of New York has climbed higher, dived deeper" of Colum McGann. I'm not sure I totally agree. I think it was a fairly depressing picture of New York really. If I didn't already want to go, it certainly wouldn't have persuaded me to visit. It seemed to me that of the 8 characters, each was almost completely swamped with the misery of their situations, and reading about their lives was quite depressing. Corrigan had finally given himself to fully accept the love he had with Adelita, and he came to a miserable end; Claire lives in an Upper East side aprtment, but lives in a quiet misery, and talks to a fridge because she and Solomon couldn't talk about their grief; Solomon has a job he wished for, but when he got it realised that he was trapped in a system and couldn't make the impact he originally wanted to; Fernando (I'm not sure why this character was ever mentioned, he added nothing to the story that I picked up on); Gloria, a strong woman who has survived decades of hardship; Tillie and Jazzlyn, who both envisaged a better life than the one they got. McGann decribed the characters well, I could fully envisage their daily lives, and whilst I was reading their respective stories, I felt like I was with them, but this just further depressed me!

At the end of the book there was a brighter future for some of the characters, but by then he'd lost me somewhat. The whole plot rested on the idea that the lives of the 8 characters were spinning towards each other beneath a man walking between the Twin Towers. But even though it included great detail on the tightrope walker's practice, and run up to the actual experience of walking between the towers, I thought in general it was a huge anticlimax. I was left with questions about the tightrope walker - who was he really? Why?

I'm too sleep deprived to think about it any more, and in all fairness that is probably why I didn't really engage with the book. If the characters had had a bit more get up and go I think I would have stuck with it more, or maybe if I read it at a different time I would have enjoyed it more, but needless to say, I'll be passing this one on to the Charity Shop on Tuesday!

The other Bookclub Bloggers:
I'm looking forward to reading the other reviews. If you want to see what the other Bloggers Cook Club Members have to say, here are their links (Please forgive (and correct me) if I have any details wrong:
Lily (Lily’s blog) (Currently blogging on Cathy's blog)
Lorna (Garrendenny Lane)
Marian (Made Marian)
Treasa (Irish Mammy on the run)
cathy (Irish Rumbling Strips)
Val (Magnum lady)
Jenn (SmurfetteJenn’s blog)
Edie (Munchies & Musings)
Catherine (Dispatches from the Deis)
Marie (Diary of an Irish country wife)
Kirsty (Kirsty Road )
Last of the Mojitos
Susan (Queen of Potts)
Una (Justuna)
Steph (The Biopsy Report)


  1. Hi Jenny, I was beginning to wonder was I the only person in the world who didn't like the book and thank goodness for that, I was wondering was I missing something. Yep, as you'll see from my review, I didn't enjoy it either and was irritated by most of the characters too :-) Enjoyed reading your review, it sounds like you totally washed your hands of it!!

  2. Great review Jenny, I actually liked the book despite the negatives you've mentioned and it seems everyone found it a LONG book!

  3. bloggers book club...sounds like a great idea! the cover reminded me of sisterhood of the traveling pants : p

  4. Hi Jenny - a very honest reflection of the book as you found it -it is quite depressing in its portrayal of New York - not at all what the tourist board would like - but I did persist with what took me a while to read and I enjoyed it overall mainly because of his lovely writing style. the characters were pretty grim and harrowing tales didn't make for a good story - I found the street stories hard going - so graphic and relentlessly dismal. Corrigan was too good to be true for a priest, more like a monk or hermit.
    I have followed your blog now, as you are new to the blogosphere if I see when you signed up - though you may have had another website I don't think I visited it. Hope you follow my blog when you drop by and that you find it enjoyable!
    All the best, Catherine.

  5. Jenny, I liked your conclusion - 'If the characters had had a bit more get up and go I think I would have stuck with it more ... but needless to say, I'll be passing this one on to the Charity Shop on Tuesday!' :)

    McCann's writing style helped me persist with this book, though I wonder would I have persisted as long, had I not been reading it for the book club. Overall I enjoyed it though.

    I’m adding a comment to all BBC members blogs to say that our June book is ‘The Children’s Book’ by A.S. Byatt to post on the first Sunday in July. Our next book then is ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ by Barbara Kingsolver. Enjoy reading.