REVIEW: MANHATTAN BEACH, BY JENNIFER EGAN

 

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.

 

My Thoughts: Our multiple narrators take us back and forth in time, centering on the 1930s and 40s.

Anna Kerrigan was twelve years old when we first meet her, but then time moved ahead and we see her after the loss of her father to mysterious circumstances…and how she meets up once again with Dexter Styles, who is a vivid memory of a time on the beach with her father.

The war years reveal the ways in which women were dismissed, and how hard Anna had to fight to get some of the things she wanted. Anna was a strong character struggling against the norms of the times, and experiencing pushback from the men around her.

The disabilities of Anna’s sister Lydia informed her life in the early years, and the moments would leave their mark of pain and loss.

What would ultimately fill in the gaps in Anna’s life? How would she make some crucial discoveries as she tries to create her niche in the world?

Manhattan Beach had some promising moments, but just when I would start to connect with a character, we would switch to another one…and stay away for a while. Back again, picking up with the previous characters, it took more time to fall into that character’s perspective. The book was too long and too erratic for me. I was disappointed, and kept trying to love the book…without success. Beautiful writing, with some interesting characters. 3.5 stars for me.

***

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12 thoughts on “REVIEW: MANHATTAN BEACH, BY JENNIFER EGAN

  1. It’s a long since she wrote anything isn’t it? She was feted so much when her first book came out but she doesn’t seem to have sustained that initial promise. I read only one of her novels but that too was quite fragmnented.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There were some good moments — like with Lydia going to the beach and with Anna & Dexter diving at the bottom of bay trying to find her missing father along the sea floor — but also portions that didn’t do much. So it seemed a bit uneven. The ending felt a bit anticlimactic to me too. Still I’m glad I tried Egan and will see what she puts out next. Hmm

    Liked by 1 person

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