Let the Great World Spin by: Colum McCann – A novel.
AGE GROUP: 16+ // GENRE: Literary fiction // NUMBER OF PAGES: 512 // RATING: 5/5
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 bestselling novelist Colum McCann’s stunningly intricate portrait of a city and its people.
Corrigan, a radical young Irish monk, struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the middle of the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gather in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, only to discover just how much divides them even in grief. A young artist finds herself at the scene of a hit-and-run that sends her own life careening sideways. Tillie, a thirty-eight-year-old grandmother, turns tricks alongside her teenage daughter, determined not only to take care of her family but to prove her own worth.
Hi! Welcome back to another review in this time of absolute chaos!😁 I will be off school for at least three weeks, so I will thankfully be able to take some time to write.
*Please note, the summary above was not written by me and is from Goodreads.*
Let the Great World Spin is a masterful creation.
Having read this novel twice (I raved about it in my End of Year Wrap Up), I was soon eager to watch Frenchman Philippe Petit’s documentary, Man on Wire, regarding his journey on the tightrope and his renowned walk between the Twin Towers in New York City of 1974. For those of you who have had the great pleasure of reading Let the Great World Spin, and for those of you who have not, I thoroughly recommend Man on Wire. Throughout the documentary, Petit’s frantic energy, his urgency, is utterly captivating and hypnotic. He is certainly a man of wonder.
Let the Great World Spin, however, does not focus solely on Philippe Petit. Colum McCann cleverly wove Petit’s walk into the story, engendering intrigue and reflection. As a reader, I found it most compelling and extraordinary to observe the prominent shift in the characters’ lives and in their stories in light of the walk, which was a powerful and beautiful approach to art.
Furthermore, the characters’ fascination with Petit’s walk was a very curious and absorbing thing to read about in the alternating perspectives. The characters’ reactions were unpredictable, as were their conversations and the way in which they shifted in response to the event. However, more importantly, the characters’ stories began to align and thus the narrative began.
I found the story delightfully infectious and effective. However, I did not find that it was entirely cohesive. I thought that particular perspectives were left incomplete, as they did not quite tie in with the remainder of the story. That said, on my second read I grew accustomed to specific perspectives (two, to be precise) and found them enjoyable. The story of Corrigan and the women and the mothers, as well as the many other crucial minds in the story, will forever be significant in literature.
If you wish to read about my initial thoughts about the characters (particularly Corrigan), you can do so in my End of Year Wrap Up.
I thought the characters in this novel were deeply layered and beautifully portrayed with compelling and believable stories. Specifically, I adore Corrigan the most, as he was such a soft and caring character. Although his conclusion was heartbreaking and tragic, it was a necessary element in the story, for it represented essential growth and a respectable end.
McCann created a rich and greatly diverse cast of characters, accurately representing New York City and its inhabitants. I was able to readily sympathize and profoundly understand the characters. Sympathy, as well as empathy, are continual and especially prominent themes in McCann’s work, as I am further noticing in his newly released novel, Apeirogon.
Additionally, the characters in Let the Great World Spin were realistically flawed and had definite fortitude–especially Corrigan. I am keen on revisiting these characters in a month or so, as I do wish to reread the novel (for the third time😉).
Although I did briefly discuss McCann’s writing in my Wrap Up, here is a more detailed recount:
Colum McCann’s writing is exceptionally distinct and inescapably notable. After having adjusted to his writing style, I now applaud and appreciate his tendencies. He writes with such colour and such electricity that his style becomes desired and preferred (most of the time, that is).
As I noted in my Wrap Up, his writing patterns fluctuate enormously to reflect the characters’ lives and their mindsets. A distressed and perhaps confused character demands a chaotic and punchier style of writing, while an organized and composed character demands a more polished style of writing.
As mentioned, I am currently reading McCann’s recent novel, Apeirogon, and this writing technique applies to it as well. Granted, his writing can become quite frustrating at times, as I am a reader who enjoys fluidity and consistency. I find that shortened sentences are often intended to create unnecessary drama, especially in young adult books. However, McCann writes in a strategic manner in order to craft contrasting and in-depth characters.
I absolutely adore this novel. Colum McCann’s characters are wonderfully memorable and beautifully intricate. However, throughout Let the Great World Spin, I fell in love with the story of not only the characters, but the story of Philippe Petit. I am very much fascinated by Petit’s walk, as highlighted and explored in this novel. As a result, I believe I will find myself reading Petit’s book, Creativity: The Perfect Crime (a fabulous title, if I do say so myself), while spending a maddening amount of time confined indoors. Moreover, I will most certainly be returning to Let the Great World Spin, an exquisite novel, in due time.
Stay safe and healthy,
P.S. The man on the cover of the book resembles young Orlando Bloom, does he not?!