Let the Great World Spin

Let the Great World Spin

by Colum McCann
3.8 488

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Let the Great World Spin 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 488 reviews.
MacPoster More than 1 year ago
McCann's latest novel is by turns visionary and gripping, with vividly drawn characters weakened only by brief appearances of writing that reaches too far and ends up squarely as melodrama. As others here have summarized the plot, I'll only add that the characters McCann ties together around the Frenchman's remarkable walk between the towers in 1974 -- including a mother/daughter prostitute team, the Irish immigrant priest who selflessly befriends them, and two unlikely middle-aged friends from different races and social classes together recovering from the loss of their sons in 'Nam -- are vividly drawn, with characters and moments that are both complete and moving, and always compelling. The invocations of 9/11 are exceedingly and wisely spare, as McCann allows the tales, and the truth and resonance of the walk, to speak for themselves. The ultimate triumph of the novel, though, is the scenes of the tightrope walker, including his practices in the snow. They are unforgettable, poetic as they are precise.
cvjacobs More than 1 year ago
Review-Colim McCann, Let the Great World Spin In Let the Great World Spin, Colim McCann takes the vision of a man walking on air 110 stories above the ground and recreates a moment in time in 1974. Many seemingly unrelated characters are living their lives in New York as the tightrope walker makes his trip. By the end of the novel, McCann has woven the threads of their lives and the times effortlessly into a loving portrait of a city. McCann's characters, as diverse as an Irish monk, a black prostitute, a Jewish judge, his upper class wife, both destroyed by the loss of their son, Joshua in Vietnam, the nerdy computer programmers working near the Towers, the other women of the group who lost their sons in Vietnam, the tightrope walker himself, leap off the page. The novel resonates in the reader long after the last page is turned. Triumphant, exuberant, uplifting. Run right out and buy it today.
BLUEEYEBE More than 1 year ago
This is a novel of New York City, told in short stories that are linked through shared characters and a connection to Philippe Petit's 1974 real-life tightrope walk between the World Trade Center's Twin Towers. The stories interconnect and encounter characters in subsequent stories, all from different perspectives and with new revelations, the thoughts and observations of the spectators of Petit as he sets out to walk the tightrope between the Twin Towers in. This is such a wonderful, poignant weave of stories that somehow don't seem as complicated as it had to have been to write it. This powerful writing makes perfect sense. Great emotions captured in a wonderful writing style that made the read a pleasure! Wonderful!
ZinGuy47 More than 1 year ago
I just finished the last few pages of this wonderful book. The characters are so well written you feel that you know them beyond the story. Each character has a majesty all their own, something redeeming in the worst and a flaw in the best. McCann is a writer at the top of his craft. This is a book that I will read again and again.
BillPilgrim More than 1 year ago
Remarkable book. One of the best that I have read last year. The story centers around the feat accomplished by Philippe Petit in August 1974, of stringing a tightrope between the two towers at the World Trade Center, and performing an act on it for a portion of the morning to the delight of the crowd below. It is an event that lifts the City's spirits and thrills the people who witnessed it with the scale and sheer beauty of the spectacle. Without stating it, the event certainly brings to mind the much different reaction of the crowd staring up at the towers on September 11, 2001. (What a coincidence that I finished reading the book on 9/11/09. On that same day, several New Yorkers have their worlds suddenly transformed. For some, it is a tragic end. For others, the day starts them on a new beginning. The lives of three groups of the City's residents intersect on that day, and their lives are changed. One group consists of several prostitutes who stroll a street by the Major Deegan parkway in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx and an Irish immigrant monk, Corrigan, who has sort of adopted them. It is a barren, dangerous neighborhood. He brings them coffee on the street and leaves unlocked his nearby, sparsely furnished apartment in the projects, so they can come in and use the bathroom when needed. For his efforts, he gets pummeled by their pimps. When he is not looking after the girls, he works at a nursing home, taking a few of the wheelchair-bound residents to the park for a few hours in his old van. There, he meets and falls for a nurse, which challenges his vow of celibacy. His brother has just moved to New York, and he is staying with Corrigan. The brother is critical of how his brother is living and tries to change things, at first. The other major group in the book are five women who have formed a support group. They have all lost sons in Vietnam. They come from diverse backgrounds. One lives in the same projects as Corrigan, and another lives in a penthouse apartment on Park Avenue in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, whose husband is a New York City criminal court judge. The book also focuses on a young couple, both artists, who have left the City for upstate New York, but who happen to be in Manhattan on the day of Petit's performance. Also, the book spends some time with Petit, as he is preparing for the day. The stories of these people are beautifully written. It is both heartbreaking and uplifting. I hope that this book gets the acclaim that it deserves.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a perfect pick for our Book Club as it evoked plenty of discussion. We found that we all had a certain expectation of the plot based upon reading the first chapter and we all felt a bit lost for the first 80 pages, however once we became resigned to the different view points and that the fate of the tight rope walker would not be immediately known, we were really able to embrace the book and get lost within the characters. I have never read a book that was told from different viewpoints where it never came back around to the same character twice... this left me longing to know more from some of them, a tell tale sign that I was fully engulfed in the fictional world. This book will leave you thinking about stereotypes, friendship, family, fate and death and how regardless of personal drama, humanity moves on.
DarkRosaleen More than 1 year ago
It took me a while to get into this and at first I didn't think I would like it but it blew me away. Such writing!Such characters! Such a kaleidoscopic picture of New York at a point in history! Such imagination, to use the tightrope walk across the twin towers as the central axis! This really is an amazing book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great common thread within the story line and a terrific overview of the city of New York, which I tend to enjoy in a book. Characters are very well defined and identifiable. I'm new to this author and quite surprised with how much I enjoyed the book. It's among my new favorites.
gio-k More than 1 year ago
This is hands down one of the best books I have ever read. It is in some ways more than just "a book": there are many books I really liked, books that made me hold my breath and kept me up all night reading, books that live with you even when you're not reading them, but rarely have I had in my hands a book that made me cry, laugh, smile and think, that was so engaging it's hard to put down until you're done reading it, and even after you're done. And I can't quite remember any other book I found myself talking out loud to. I'm not quite sure what particular nerves it struck, but yes, it is that good! It's amazing how all the different characters' voices are so real, so spot on, as you read them. There are ten stories, ten characters, whose lives cross paths in minor or major ways, on the backdrop of Philippe Petit's walk between the twin towers, and that moment of beauty becomes the 11th story. I would not have been surprised to find out they were real stories, and had been written by 11 different writers, so accurate each story's narrating voice is. And each of the stories is so beautiful, so compelling, so full, and they all are woven into one another, creating a unity, a line of beauty that carries everything throughout the book. That is, at the end, what I cherish the most about this novel: the sense that beauty, like tragedy, is inexplicable, doesn't need a reason, you can't really do anything about it. But it's there. There is beauty...
TiBookChatter More than 1 year ago
Let the Great World Spin is a collection of stories. Did you know that? I did not. However, the stories are told from several different points of view, and although each character has a very distinct voice, the stories eventually collide with one another leaving the reader standing there, wondering who or what comes next. Something terrible happens, and as the chain of events unfold, we view the same event from different perspectives. It's as if the world is spinning in slow motion, and we are forced to look at the bits and pieces that are not normally noticed when time moves at a more normal pace. "There is something that happens to the mind in moments of terror. Perhaps we figure it's the last we'll ever have and we record it for the rest of our long journey. We take perfect snapshots, an album to despair over. We trim the edges and place them in plastic. We tuck the scrapbook away to take out in our ruined times." Many of these characters are flawed. They are striving for something, and often find themselves on the outside looking in. As they observe the world around them, life as we know it, continues on. As I read this book, I was mesmerized by the author's ability to take me in and out of a character's head. One story is told from a prostitute's point of view, and as I was reading her story, I felt what she was feeling, the frustration, the loss, the helplessness. It was a lonely place to be. I know I haven't said much about the plot, but as you can imagine, when something terrible happens, there is a downward spiral that takes place. As things come crashing to a halt, there is no place to go but up. This book is like that. We take the plunge into despair, visit with these characters awhile, and then we're given a small glimpse of what lies ahead. To me, the the plot didn't really matter. I was so absorbed the the internal conflict within each character that plot was secondary to me. I love this book. I appreciate this book. I am in awe of this book. It has a quiet, understated quality to it that I wasn't expecting. The characters are complex and conflicted and even though some of them may not be the type of people I'd be friendly with, I could relate to many of them. This is the type of book that you can re-read, and see (and feel) something different each time you pick it up. I know for some readers, the varying perspective was a source of confusion at times, but once I figured out where the author was going, I had no problem with the different viewpoints.
readerbdj More than 1 year ago
I thought this was a very very good book. The writing is excellent. I think the author knew someone like Corrigan because the character is so well drawn. Anyone who can recall New York City, indeed most of urban US cities in the seventies, will appreciate the author's research and and his presentation of the mood of the time. The ending is a little "pat", but it offers redemption and hope.
SmithDoug More than 1 year ago
The tightrope walker lives for the defining moments, the chances to live life furiously in order to make some impression on the "great world" as it spins along. The most enduring characters, those who have redemptive or noble aspects by the novel's end, are those, who, like the unnamed walker, confront the world and live. Gloria turns around after running away to hide in her apartment, forges a lifetime friendship with Claire (her social antithesis), and takes the lives of two future prostitutes and creates a goodness that had never existed in her life of running and hiding. Lara confronts the truth of what she has done, works to make a wrong right, and creates turns a life to beauty. Corrie abandons the principles that hold him back from really loving someone while maintaining his dedication to easing the lives of those living in the world's arm pit. It is stepping off the building onto the unknown of the high wire that grants the moments that make life.
PhronsieRose More than 1 year ago
If there is any novel that can make one anticipate and feel the pain of the impending implosion of the World Towers in New York City, it is Colum McCann's novel, Let the Great World Spin. Set in the 1970's, at a time when the World Towers were under construction, the novel is as spell binding as the transcendent act of the tightrope walker who dances on a wire. Although not named in the book, the tightrope act is based on the real life feat of Philippe Petit who, with a ragtag band of misfits, suspended a cable between the two World Towers and had the courage to create a moment in time when all of New York stood still. As the reader gets to know the intertwined lives of the characters in the novel and their defining moments, the reader is acutely aware of ephemeral nature of the people and the buildings. It is as if they are all ghosts because the permanent fixtures of the story, the World Trade Centers, are an illusion. What I most loved were the brothers, Ciaran and Corrigan. Ciaran often reminded me of a sidewalk spectator helplessly watching with a volatile mixture of both admiration and trepidation as the conflicted Corrigan dances precariously on a wire. And just as the reader is transported briefly to a time in New York when the world was unaware of the impending disaster of 9/11, the characters in the novel struggle with their various demons unaware of the fatal accident that will intersect through and impact all their lives.
austinbrecher More than 1 year ago
I love the interconnectedness of the characters. The epigraph says it all--we lead lives parallel to other lives that we will never know about. Here we see the parallel lives and how they touch each other, how they are connected by a thread, or in this case a cable pulled between the twin towers. The writing is superb. The book is full of gems; lines that made me pause and think about them before continuing.
1_grammie More than 1 year ago
It is easy to see why McCann won the National Book Award for Let the Great World Spin. The story is alive with wonderful characters and they all have an unexpected connection to each other and the tightrope walk of Philippe Petit between the newly constructed World Trade Towers. This fictional piece has special meaning to its author, who personally felt the loss of friends in the demise of the towers on 9/11. As each new set of characters is presented you begin to understand how the great world spins out of control to its climactic conclusion. Don't miss this read! It is a unique ride.
CafeHound More than 1 year ago
I loved this book, its pace, the interaction of the characters, and most of all - the 'aliveness' of the characters themselves. Author Colum McCann has a way of getting inside the characters' heads as they try to make sense of themselves, their personal losses, and the insecurities that color and shape their lives. You do not want this book to end and you're sad that it must.
KarenS More than 1 year ago
On a scale of 1-5, this book rates a 10! Set in New York City, the multiple plots revolve around the tight-rope walk between the twin towers in 1974. An international cast of characters, including an Irish monk and his Guatemalan girlfriend, mother and daughter hookers, a Park Avenue mother who has lost a son in Viet Nam, and an Italian physician, reflect the inhabitants of the cosmopolitan city. Interestingly, the fictional characters seem more real than the tight rope walker. Despite themes of sadness and squalor, the book ends on a hopeful note. McCann's prose is a pleasure to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lyrical, touching, beautifully written and felt.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is probably one of my all time favorite books.  I had to read this for my AP English 4 class and was  not excited based on what the basic description was.  However, I was happily surprised.  McCann is a literary genius, whose writing style draws  you in and  holds you in place.  It can be a slow read  but that's just because of the sheer amount of beauty in his writing. If you like character driven novels.  This is a must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed McCann's othr work especially This Side of Brightness. I was eager to read this because of the great reviews. I was wholeheartedly into but.... it made me more and moe depressed. I was at a place in my life where I didn't need more depressing events. I had to put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book.
SuiteMary More than 1 year ago
I really did enjoy this book. I struggled with it a little early on, but stuck with it and the separate storylines began to come together in rewarding ways. Definitely recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Got this book at b and n for my secret santa at school its a great book take it from me a big reader
guylarae More than 1 year ago
Fabulous story with very interesting characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an edgy book the first few chapters you are not sure what you are getting into, but after that it is difficult to put down. The chapters about the women who have lost children in Vietnam are the best. There are some profound thoughts on life and how it goes on even after great loss.