I have to start by asking, just because I’m curious: is anyone still reading Let the Great World Spin? I can’t believe how many people have told me they tried and couldn’t get into it, either for Reading Buddies or on their own. (There is a Goodreads thread going for Let the Great World Spin, but it hasn’t seen much action!) Since I know people who didn’t finish may be interested in how the book is going, I’ve decided to keep this post free of major spoilers. I won’t go beyond basic structure, extremely rough summary, and vague connections, so if you’re curious, read on.
I’m listening to Let the Great World Spin, and that format seems to be working for me. It’s read by a full cast, one narrator per section of the book. I loved the opening scene, how so many anonymous people in a usually impersonal city were briefly united as one in their fascination with the man on the tightrope. I’m not sure what I expected to happen next, but it wasn’t what did!
From that opening scene, the novel moves on to spend some time with individual people. I will admit the first story, about an Irishman and his brother, was very slow for me, and had I not committed for Reading Buddies, I may have given up. (If you quit, did you make it past this first story?) The very end, though, caught my attention, and I was interested to continue.
The next story is about a mother whose son died in war. I found her story much more absorbing than the Irishman’s. However, I was confused as to the novel’s structure. It’s referred to as a novel, not a collection of stories, so I expected there to be some thread connecting all the stories together, yet up to that point there seemed to have been none. The third story, a young artist’s, tied the third and first narratives together in a way I didn’t expect but that was rather touching. I’m still working out how those two fit with the mother’s, though. Perhaps they don’t beyond possibly sharing a timeline. At the end of the first part, where I stopped for this discussion, the story returned to the tightrope walker, showing a glimpse of his walk preparations.
I am mildly intrigued to keep reading, and I’ll definitely finish the book, but I can see why many have set it aside. I’m hoping it’s the sort of novel that makes sense in the end, that comes together in some lovely way. For anyone interested in trying again, I would recommend the audio, which might be one of the reasons I haven’t yet gotten too bored!
If you’re reading (or have read) Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, what do (did) you think? If you abandoned it, how far did you get and what made you ultimately set it aside? I’m very curious to hear!