Let the Great World Spin Review
The book is - in a way - a collection of short stories. It’s not simply short stories, though. Let the Great World Spin is a novel, but it’s divided into several individual stories that share a common thread. That common thread is Philippe Petit’s tightrope walk across the World Trade Center in 1974.
The book takes place in 1974 and contains very memorable characters. Let the Great World Spin is a book about characters. If you want a plot-driven work, I suggest you look elsewhere. I enjoyed the book, but I did find all the character stuff a little overwhelming. It can get pretty dark at times, too. Still, the characters are very believable and certainly interesting.
One thing that bothered me about the book is that just when you really get into a character - when you feel like you know him/her inside and out - a new chapter starts with a completely different character. A lot of the character’s story lines get picked back up, but it almost made me stop reading a couple of times.
But the frustration caused by that is made up for with amazing connections. The best part of Let the Great World Spin involves the connections made between seemingly unrelated characters. By the last few chapters, all these “unconnected” New York lives begin to intertwine in fascinating ways. I enjoyed those connections most of all. McCann did a great job planning the overarching story line out - some of the characters will surprise you with their relation to other characters.
One thing I should mention is that I may be a little more partial to Let the Great World Spin than others. Since I live so close to Manhattan, and could picture locations so vividly, I enjoyed a lot of the references to New York City lifestyles. I imagine if you’re from elsewhere, you might be a little bored by the Manhattan descriptions.
Also, I give McCann credit for not (well, there is a slight reference towards the end) talking about 9-11 so much. By not bringing up the terrorist attack, the work is a lot more powerful. The future of the World Trade Center is constantly at the back of the reader’s mind without the author having to mention it specifically.
I must say, Let the Great World Spin is a very well written piece. It’s not one of my favorite books, but I can see it growing on me in time. I recommend you give it a shot. You can order a copy from Barnes & Noble or Amazon.
If you read it, please let me know what you think.