This Side Of Brightness

My audiobook listening opportunities have been significantly reduced during the school holidays, so it’s taken me a while to get through this one but on the whole This Side Of Brightness by Colum McCann has been very good, the only let down being the very end, a bit like one of those movies that go on too long after the final reveal or action piece. But anyway I’m jumping ahead of myself, set in New York, This Other Side of Brightness follows two characters, Walker who we first meet at the age of 19, digging a subway tunnel under the river near the beginning of the last century and Treefrog, a homeless man living in a train tunnel sometime towards the end of the last century. We follow Walker’s life as he marries and has children and his children have children and this is interspersed with Treefrog’s life in the tunnels. I really liked Walker and quite liked Treefrog, although I began to lose sympathy with him towards the end. The book tackles topics ranging from how tragedy can shape the lives of the people around you, mixed race marriage, mental illness and of course homelessness, taking in great sweeps of New York history with it. As I’ve said, I really liked this book for most of it, Walker was an incredibly lovely character and there was an interesting supporting cast of tough and not so tough female characters to. I love books where I’ve felt I’ve learnt something about an era in time and I now feel like I know a little bit more than I did before about life in New York in the early parts of the last century, about tunnel digging in particular and later on in New York’s history, about the building of skyscrapers. It was only really the ending, after the final complete reveal about Treefrog’s past, that felt as if it went on too long and there was something about it that was just depressing, which I don’t think was the author’s actual intention. But still, definitely worth a read (or a listen).


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