My review will follow the publisher’s blurb.
The long-awaited, daring, and magnificent novel from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad.
Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.
Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that once belonged to men, now soldiers abroad. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. One evening at a nightclub, she meets Dexter Styles again, and begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished.
With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world. It is a magnificent novel by the author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, one of the great writers of our time.
Wouldn’t it be something to be able to take a vacation to a specific time period, live and observe without messing up the time continuum? I’d seriously buy that ticket in a heart beat!
Jennifer Egan must have done quite a bit of research for Manhattan Beach, the little details of day to day life, the slang and the different values people had at the time gave me the impression of being right alongside these characters. I couldn’t help feel that everything, everyone was on a tipping point.
Manhattan Beach has three story lines. Usually when this happens, I latch on to one in particular. In this instance, it was Anna’s character I craved reading the most. She was such a strong, resilient and determined person. Her story captivated me right from the beginning.
The moments Anna cared for her sister were the ones I loved the most; honest, pure and full of tenderness. I also enjoyed reading Anna’s stubbornness, her perceptive nature, ability to read various situations and gauge people. Basically, I wanted more of the Anna story.
I’ll be honest, there were moments where I lost interest with the many details of the Dexter Styles gangster story line. Perhaps this is because I always struggle to remember who is who and who did what. In any case, I lumbered along and in the end, loved how all the story lines drifted towards each other. The difficult choices Anna had to make near the end definitely made getting through the slower parts worth it.
When I read the last sentence and closed the book, I was on the fence about Manhattan Beach. Have you ever felt one way while reading a book and then completely change your mind a few days after you’ve finished it? Well, Manhattan Beach was exactly that for me. The more I asked myself questions about Anna, her secrets and decisions, the more content I felt about the novel. I found myself wishing I was part of a book club that could discuss the various themes within the novel. Actually upon visiting Simon & Schuster’s website, I noticed there is a reading group guide! This makes me happy even if I’ll be the only member of my club.
Although this was Egan’s first historical novel, she’s written 5 other books and has won a Pulitzer Prize for A Visit from the Goon Squad. This was my first time reading Egan’s work and there is something about her writing style and story telling that I liked very much.
What about that third story line ? Ah, I’ll leave that for you to discover.
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan – available now !
Published by Scribner – an imprint of Simon & Schuster
A copy of Manhattan Beach was provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts and review.