1. TransAtlantic - I love this book - if you only one 2013 novel this year, consider this one.
2. Let the Great World Go On Spinning. Huge international best seller.
3. Dancer- a powerful book centered on Rudolph Nureyev. Parts of it are at perfect but not quite as good as the first two selections.
4. Zoli - Good look at post WWII Roma culture.
5. Songdogs - his first novel, parts are really good, parts a bit shaky but very much worth reading.
Songdogs has several of the elements of your standard Irish novel; a weak rascal of a father, whiskey soaked story line, an obsession about what it means to be Irish and a sense in which the central character does not really become Irish until he travels outside the country. The father in the story wants above all else to take photographs and sell them. He was born under dubious circumstances and ended up with a small inheritance which allowed him to leave Ireland with a Leica.
I do not feel inclined toward retelling the plot. Here is what I liked about it. The level of prose is wonderful, the scenes set in the dust of Mexico make a perfect contrast to Ireland. I liked the relationship of the father and his Mexican wife and that of the son to both of them. I enjoyed seeing his love for photography and how it shaped his life. I thought the ending was brilliant. I found some of the minor characters a little underdeveloped. All in all I would say read my first two picks then if you want just read the ones that sound most interesting to you. I still have one McCann novel to go and hope to read it one day.
I really enjoyed This Side of Brightness. It is similar in ways to Let the Great World Spin with the stories of different people in New York intertwining with each other. I am looking forward to TransAtlantic.
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