Book Review: Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Let the Great World Spin

I’ve had this book on my shelf for some time now. I’ve been on a bit of a non-fiction kick, but it caught my eye a week or so ago so I decided to give it a shot. Overall, Let the Great World Spin was a relatively quick read, once I got the hang of the narrative style.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum MCCann, photo by Christine Csencsitz

Colum McCann’s Unique Narrative Style

Let the Great World Spin is broken up into a handful of “books,” which are then subdivided into chapters. Each book focuses on a different group of characters, each running in different, parallel social circles. In the end, I enjoyed the book’s format, but I was definitely confused at first.

McCann’s Protagonists and Primary Circle

Overall, Let the Great world Spin centers on two Irish brothers, Ciaran Corrigan and his younger brother, who simply goes by Corrigan. Corrigan, a Jesuit monk, finds himself in the Bronx, befriending a circle of prostitutes. Ciaran follows his brother to New York after being injured in an IRA attack in Dublin. Ciaran stays with his brother and finds it difficult to accept both his brother’s living situation and his religion.

Besides the Corrigan brothers, McCann’s book circles around Philippe Petit, a performer who managed to string a tightrope between the Twin Towers in Manhattan and perform a harrowing tightrope walk in 1974. The book actually opens with this, but I knew so little about Petit that I almost put the book down. I thought the whole thing would be about a tightrope walker. I’m not a fan of heights. Luckily, the details are not so anxiety inducing that I couldn’t keep going.

Recommended Reading

I’m quite glad I kept going with the book. The prose keeps you on your toes, particularly from section to section, while still being almost poetic. McCann’s Let the Great World Spin is a surprisingly quick read, as well — ideal for when you really want to get lost in a book for a time.

Pick up Let the Great World Spin for yourself here.

Looking for more book recommendations? Check out my other book reviews here and my Amazon Idea Reading List here!