Manhattan Beach

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Oct 2017

Member Reviews

Taking place in the mid 1930's, the book follows young Anna Kerrigan and her father Eddie. It's a rough time in the 30's, and the family is trying hard to make ends meet. It's especially difficult with a disabled daughter. As a young girl, Anna loves to spend time with her dad and accompany him sometimes when he's doing odd tasks for his local boss. But things change one day when Eddie visits the house of Dexter Styles and takes young Anna. It would be a trip that would change all of their lives. 

Skip ahead several years and Eddie has disappeared. Anna and her mother assume he's dead, but is he? Anna is now working in the Naval Yard helping with the war effort trying to support her mother and disabled sister. Things change when she runs into Dexter Styles years later. 

I really enjoyed this book. I've never really read a book that took place in the US during the 30's and 40's. Let alone a woman that helped with the war effort. I really admired Anna and enjoyed her story. 

Thanks to Netgalley, Simon & Schuster and Jennifer Egan for the Advanced Copy.
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School started this week.  If you are a teacher you know what that sentence *really* means.   It means that I was in an epic state of bliss the entire week and by Friday, I crashed.  People say there is no tired like "first week of school" tired.  I say, there is no tired like "first week of school that starts with an eclipse" tired.

Instead of resting, I filled my weekend to the brim with wieners and wine, tubing, shopping, coloring parties, and bonding time with my cousin who was visiting me from Michigan.  It was essentially the best possible weekend, especially when we added silent reading parties to the mix!

When you are reading a book that catches hold of you and won't let go, silent reading parties are a must- with or without company!  The book? Manhattan Beach, out October 3rd.  Thank you, Scribner for allowing me to read it 37 days early!  This is going to be one of the BIG books this fall!

Manhattan Beach, by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan, begins with the great depression and then drops readers into World War II.  Anna is twelve at the start and lives a split life- at times accompanying her father on mysterious business deals and staying at home with her mother and severely multiply impaired sister at others.  She is in absolute control of her emotions and the time spent with her father seems like an act, a show she is putting on to help her father's image, to aid in his shady business deals.

Suddenly, we are in World War II.  Anna's father has disappeared and she fights back by working in a factory, taking care of her sister, and trying to become the first female diver.  Ghosts from her past reemerge as she tries to connect the dots and determine what actually happened to her father.  She is the truest example of grit!  

This is a book you must read this fall so pre-order it now from your local indie bookstore!
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I could not get through this book.  Each time I would pick it up I read a few pages and then put it down again.  I could not get through this book.  I found it too wordy and too much description.
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Manhattan Beach, Jennifer Egan’s follow-up to the brilliant Goon Squad, also places a fascinating female character in another time

Ambitious and inspiring historic, Manhattan Beach spins a wildly domestic tale while reaching into the pockets of New York during WWII and the height of its gangster activity. A father daughter duo, Eddie and Anna Kerrigan, weave their stories through water and the mean streets during a restless and unique time on the waterfronts of Manhattan Beach, New York. While the two main characters end up making a living on the sea, both wrestle with gangsters and tango with NY’s shadow economy, and find themselves needing to disappear in a clever turn, it’s Egan’s lush details and period-specific wording and style that make the novel sing.

Wendy Ward
http://wendyrward.tumblr.com/
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All of my favourite things, and some I hadn't considered, included in one fab book! Prohibition, gangsters, New York, clubs, WW2, 1940s Brooklyn Navy Yard, female war workers, diving, I could go on! This is a fascinating read, both historically and story-wise, and I couldn't put it down. It begins with Anna and her father, during the time of Prohibition in USA and leads the reader into WW2 and an unusual role played by women during the conflict. Along the way, Anna meets gangsters, goes to night clubs and volunteers to become a Navy diver. The story follows Anna's life, and the conflicts and barriers that she has to overcome. Historically accurate and utterly fascinating, the author's descriptions really bring the story to life. Pick this book up- you'll love it!
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Egan is such a great writer but the subject of the WWII gangster world leaves me cold.
The characters in the first third of this novel seemed rather flat and stereotypical.
I simply wasn't drawn into the story at all. Unfortunately.
Had high hopes for this and it is not a bad book in any way! It's simply not for me.
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Jennifer Egan is one of my "must read" authors, so I've been looking forward to Manhattan Beach. Not surprisingly, the historical novel is beautifully written, though it's quite different from her previous books. I legitimately could have highlighted half the book, the prose is that beautiful. Egan has a way with words, and it doesn't matter on what subject she's writing or in what genre. 
My only issue with Manhattan Beach is that it’s being billed as a “noir thriller”, which must be a marketing ploy because “literary fiction” isn’t nearly as appealing to the masses. There is certainly an intoxicating, dark moodiness that permeates the writing, but to call it a thriller is misleading; it is a slow burn, more an atmospheric character study than plot-driven piece. I do wonder whether this book will find its audience, as it seems perhaps less accessible than Egan’s previous books (which are primarily commentary on contemporary society and how individuals are shaped by and shaping it), and I don’t think it will appeal to those who expect a female-centered thriller, fans of Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, and Mary Kubica’s twisted plots, etc. Make no mistake: Manhattan Beach is anything but a beach read, it is a nuanced work of literary prowess.
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I have never made it through a Jennifer Egan novel.

Until now.

I finished "Manhattan Beach" at about 2:30 am, being simply unable to put it down. I was captured from page one and I was completely in to the end.

It's a complicated story of complex relationships set between the late 1930s and the middle of World War II.  At the opening of the book, Anna Kerrigan's father takes her along to visit a business associate who lives in a large house on Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn. Anna's family has been deeply affected by the Depression and her parents and severely handicapped sister Lydia live in a very modest apartment, so the large house and many toys belonging to the associate's children are memorable to her. This family will become as important to her as they obviously are to her father.

That's one storyline. Later, Anna is working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during the war, and becomes entranced with the idea of becoming a diver, repairing ships beneath the water's surface. Her father has disappeared and her mother does piecework while staying home with Lydia. Women are doing lots of jobs during wartime, but not this one--yet.

And then, there is Dexter Styles, the man Anna and her father visit at the beginning of the novel. Although married into society, he is part of the shadow world of nightclubs and the mob. A man of subtlety and nuance as well as violence, he will fit into Anna's story in unexpected ways. 

"Unexpected" is a word for many of the developments in "Manhattan Beach," and that is what makes the story so vivid. The way the characters face these events is so intriguing, so compelling, that the novel unnerves you again and again.

How nice that I have Jennifer Egan's other novels to revisit. I can only hope that one of them pulls me as much as "Manhattan Beach."
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This was such an interesting and wonderful story. The characters were fresh and the story was well played out. Very enjoyable.
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At times, it felt like the many narrative threads Egan was spinning were going to end up a knotty mess, but ultimately, she pulled off a satisfying story. Clearly, this book was a passion project for Egan, and I think her eagerness to include every neat fact and story she came across in her research makes some of them interrupt the flow of the writing, and also left some gaps as well. But I engaged with the characters, the setting was vividly described, and things wrapped up with a satisfying, and earned, conclusion. Although the overall novel was not as deft and incandescent as a Visit from the Good Squad was for me, this is solid historical fiction.
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Jennifer Egan is an absolute wizard at portraying the contemporary, so I was a little disappointed that Manhattan Beach is just a perfectly fine historical novel. Egan has clearly done her research, and the changing mores of race, sex, and class in 1940’s New York is fun to read about. But many characters are introduced only to be abandoned, and the narrative loses momentum when it switches from Anna, who seems only tangentially connected to the underworld.
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Thanks Scribner and netgalley for this ARC.

A masterpiece of fiction. I loved the way this novel comes alive in the mind's eye. I wouldn't be surprised if this was made into a movie!
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What I was drawn to: The story centers on Anna Kerrigan, and her Irish family, beginning in Brooklyn during the Great Depression, an era and location that should come alive, so much rich history to drawn from.

So, what did and didn’t work for me? I was drawn into this story for very brief periods of time. When Anna was caring for her sister, whose disabilities require constant care and supervision, her devotion to her sister - admirable, and her delight when Lydia showed any positive reaction, charmingly sweet. When Anna’s father took her on a business related house call to a man who lived by the sea. When Anna was with her friend Nell, she came alive, again. When Anna fights her way through the negative view of women doing men’s work in her dreams to learn to dive, she shows her spirit and determination. However, there are also many situations where Anna’s just another character, lost and fading.

It wasn’t really that Anna was a more likable character than the others, it was a mixture of the episodic shuffle of time and place and person, which made the structure of this story feel very disjointed, and possibly even more for me was feeling as though there was a lot of ‘telling’ and not enough ‘showing,’ the writing, unnatural and stilted.

I was indifferent at least as much or more than I was interested. The writing is decent, but I did not find it to be above average or lovely. My interest diminished, my attention drifted. My frustration grew.

I am sure that there will be more than a sufficient number of readers who will love this novel. Perhaps I expected too much, but I know I wanted more.



Pub Date: 03 Oct 2017

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Scribner
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I thought the book was a great read!  Read it in one sitting while at the ocean for vacation.  This was the first book I have read by this author and look forward to reading more.
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Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan- A literary novel about people living through the Great Depression of the 1930's and on into World War II.  Anna is a young girl grown up at first with wealth then poverty, who never lets these constraints hold her back.  She goes to work at the New York Navel Yard and after a while fancies the idea of becoming a Navy diver, with the metal helmet and bulky suit.  And so she does, to the amazement of everyone.  Dexter Styles is an entrepreneur, a gamesman, an gangster.  He has clawed his way to the top but belatedly realizes the top of society doesn't care for him, and nothing he does seems to salve his craving for respectability.  Eddie Kerrigan, Anna's father, has dealings with Dexter, then disappears.  It becomes Anna's quest to find out what happened to her father.  Was he dead? Did he abandon his family.  And while this is happening the whole country is caught up in the turmoil and changes brought on by World War II.  The story shifts back and forth from person to person with a rich detail of emotions and discoveries.  From a Pulitzer Prize winning author, this is one you shouldn't miss.
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The day with Tabatha and Mr. Styles became like one of those dreams that shreds and vanishes even as you try to gather it up.

The setting during the Great Depression, New York is initially the reason I wanted to read this novel. I think I was waiting for more excitement, because with everything happening during that time period a writer could do a lot with it. It seems for me it just fell flat at times. Anna’s diving experience was interesting but I had a hard time really falling for Anna as a character. Lydia, I have mixed feelings here because she sort of felt like a non-entity, I wanted her story to develop more. There was beauty in the love Anna and her mother felt for her, the care they gave her but I wondered why she left us so soon. In a time when ‘men ran the world’ certainly Anna comes into her own, shows strength and bravery. Historical fiction can be extremely difficult to tackle, particularly when you touch on gangsters. There are fantastic novels about organized crime so if you’re going to take that on, you have to know expectations will be high. Eddie’s story is important, and why he was involved in the criminal world matters but here I go complaining again- Lydia could have been such a solid driving force had she remained in the story. However, I did enjoy that she ‘comes’ to Anna during a big life decision. I think that is a beautiful moment.

I was hooked at first, Chapter One as Anna and her father Eddie are driving to Mr. Stlyes’s house stirred me. The comparison between his pampered child and the Flossie Flirt doll that Anna remembers wanting ‘violently’ beautifully shows the difference between their worlds, it also introduces the child that is still alive inside Anna as she is maturing into a young lady. Anna on the shore, wanting to feel the cold, a instinctual wildness, the strength in her had me thinking with the power of the ocean, her hunger for it is a great way to introduce a free spirit, someone that will not be tamed by her times. Then through the novel I thought ‘is this going for romance?’ because with Dexter it could have gone so much darker, richer. I am not sure if maybe there was too much so that nothing specific (aside from the Diving) was explored better or what? I felt confused, sort of thrown off the plot. I felt the beginning was such a strong start but then it veered off in too many directions and nowhere I wanted it to go.  I don’t know if there was a fog of mystery for me that I cared enough about. I had to put the novel down for days at a time.

Eddie is a damaged but well written character, desperate to see his disabled daughter get the chair she needs but then, he makes terrible choices, he vanishes- I wonder what a different sort of novel it would be if he had stuck around with trouble on his heels. I think more than anything I am just left confused. The ending isn’t what I expected, it leaves me scratching my head. I don’t feel anything big happened, aside from Anna and her diving, the sexism, that women in the end run her world more than any man- but other than that I am not sure what I am taking from this. It isn’t that the writing is bad, it’s just the story drifts off all over the place so that I couldn’t invest in any character with my entire heart.

It may just be that I am not the right fit. Egan can certainly write, but I think the story just isn’t for me.

Publication Date: October 3, 2017

Scribner
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Not Egan's best, but a strong offering with an unusual plot.
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I adored Jennifer Egan's The Keep and A Visit from the Goon Squad and was very excited to score an advanced copy of her latest.  Unfortunately, Manhattan Beach lacks the quirkiness and literary maneuverings of those two previous novels.  Manhattan Beach is a straight forward novel of a father and daughter in and around Manhattan Beach beginning in 1934.  Neither the plot, the setting nor the characters of this latest effort quite engaged me and I was longing for short-fiction feeling prose and strong characters of Goon Squad and the tense, building plot of The Keep.
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This is such a wonderful, beautiful novel! I'm knocked out by the way Jennifer Egan creates a harsh but beautiful world in this historical, literary work of fiction. I had been admiring Egan's careful research as I read, and it's lovely she included a section of acknowledgments on the pleasures of her research process at the end of the book, satisfying some of my curiosity about how she managed this beautiful novel. This is a work of fiction that stays with a reader forever. Thank you so much for sharing it with me, and I look forward to recommending it to many students and to many other readers after its publication.
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One of the rare novels which offers characters that were each developed with incredible detail, a plot that flows flawlessly though written in a non-linear fashion from varied perspectives, and the setting of an era that was magnificently researched, Egan delivered a masterpiece in Manhattan Beach.  The story was character driven, and although the main protagonist, Anna, is the central focus, the secondary characters were equally as deliberate in propelling the plot.  There was no excess in words, no frivolous passages of time, each chapter was necessary.  There is no question that this novel will be regarded as one of the best of the year, I'm confident.
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