I procrastinated about buying this book although it was widely touted. It was on my wish list for months. I read Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad and was not terribly impressed although it was award winning. Then Manhattan Beach showed up in audio format available from my local library. Hmmm…. I started listening. At about 1/2 way through I’d lost the thread, but it seemed pretty good in ways so I got the Kindle version to go with it and started over. If you actually read the whole thing it really is a very satisfying and lovely book.
Yes, it is pretty good, but not something I’d recommend to everyone (I doubt any book is). There is an “old movie” feel to it (as one reviewer on Amazon said) but it’s historical fiction set in New York between the wars through the end of WWII so there’s going to be an “old movie” feel in some ways. Still, there are passages of brilliant writing to go with an interesting plot and the nicely developed and complex characters were enough to keep me reading.
by Jennifer Egan
2017 / 449 pages
Read by author, Heather Lind and Vincent Piazza 15h 16m
Rating: 8.5 / historical fiction_
(read and listened)
New York in the 1930s was a place of mixed ethnic populations – some honest and innocent, others involved in mobster doings; some doing wonderfully well in the big city, others, due to luck or judgement , not doing so well. This is a story that mixes those groups, not always distinct.
The story is clever and very different from A Visit From the Goon Squad. Anna Kerrigan, a young woman with a seriously disabled sister and an absent father wants to dive underwater as she’s seen the men at the naval base do. She works in the production area but manages to get transferred.
Although the tale is plot and character driven, the research Egan did is evident, but never overplayed in this plot and character-driven story which develops the usual themes of family and love and war and abandonment. The all-male adventure-style ocean scenes are wonderfully well written.
These were not the best of times for women in un”womanly” situations, but they were better than they had been and Anna faces some harass-ment and very difficult choices. But she is physically quite strong, brave and intelligent. The other characters are neither “good” guys nor “bad” guys – they are nicely developed “complex” characters.
The narration is creatively done with a male and a female voice switching at appropriate places, not necessarily chapter changes and certainly not by character change. I liked it. The narrative is 3rd person so this technique is never difficult for the listener.
Women’s Divers Hall of Fame: http://www.wdhof.org/wdhof-memRosterDetail.aspx?mid=9