NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A New York Times Notable Book
Winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction
The daring and magnificent novel from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author.
Named One of the Best Books of the Year by NPR, Esquire, Vogue, The Washington Post, The Guardian, USA TODAY, and Time
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.
“A magnificent achievement, at once a suspenseful noir intrigue and a transporting work of lyrical beauty and emotional heft” (The Boston Globe), “Egan’s first foray into historical fiction makes you forget you’re reading historical fiction at all” (Elle). Manhattan Beach takes us into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men in a dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
We’re bowled over by Jennifer Egan’s talent and versatility. With Manhattan Beach, the author of the thrillingly experimental A Visit from the Goon Squad—for which she won the Pulitzer Prize—aces the historical novel. Set during the first half of the 20th century, her story follows Anna Kerrigan, a shrewd and fascinating heroine who’s a survivor through and through. Egan paints a sparkling portrait of New York City during World War II, particularly the shipyards where Anna works, alongside hundreds of increasingly emboldened women. We spent several happy afternoons with Manhattan Beach and a cup of coffee, lost in visions of the past and engrossed by the mounting dramas of Egan’s irresistible characters.
Pulitzer-winner Egan's splendid novel begins in 1934 Brooklyn as Eddie Kerrigan struggles to support his wife and two daughters, one of whom is severely disabled. He finds work as a bagman, ferrying bribes for a corrupt union official. One day he brings his healthy daughter, Anna, to the Manhattan Beach home of Dexter Styles, a nightclub owner with underworld partners. The 11-year-old can't comprehend their business, but she senses that the two men have become "friends." By the time Anna is 19, Eddie has inexplicably vanished and America is in the Second World War. Working a dull job inspecting ship parts at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, Anna seizes the opportunity to become the first female civilian diver there. Around the same time, a second encounter with Dexter Styles raises hopes that he can help untangle the mysteries of her father's disappearance. As the stories eddy through time, Egan makes haunting use of shore and water motifs to balance dense period detail and explore the liminal spaces between strength and weakness, depth and surface, past and future, life and death through which her protagonists move. More straightforwardly narrated than some of Egan's earlier work, including the celebrated A Visit from the Goon Squad, the novel is tremendously assured and rich, moving from depictions of violence and crime to deep tenderness. The book's emotional power once again demonstrates Egan's extraordinary gifts.
Fantastic read, yet not fully satisfying
Manhattan Beach leaves you wanting more and makes you not want to put it down. But I was somewhat irritated at how often it switched POV and at the most intense times. I understand that this technique makes the reader want to continue reading but I wish it had disclosed exactly what happened to Dexter Styles at the time of his death. Not knowing exactly what happened to him, as we know with the other characters, left me annoyed. Other than that, overall it is a fantastic read with many surprises and revelations. Bravo.
So well written and so beautiful
Many aspects boring
I had high hopes for this novel, having read multiple positive reviews. I didn’t care about the characters, or the underwater work which was such a major element of this book. Sorely disappointed.