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Manhattan Beach

By: Jennifer Egan

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Trade

Imprint: Scribner

Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9781476716732

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The long-awaited novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, Manhattan Beach opens in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Anna observes the uniformed servants, the lavishing of toys on the children, and some secret pact between her father and Dexter Styles.Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that had always belonged to men. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. She is the sole provider for her mother, a farm girl who had a brief and glamorous career as a Ziegfield folly, and her lovely, severely disabled sister. At a night club, she chances to meet Styles, the man she visited with her father before he vanished, and she begins to understand the complexity of her fathers life, the reasons he might have been murdered. Mesmerizing, hauntingly beautiful, with the pace and atmosphere of a noir thriller and a wealth of detail about organized crime, the merchant marine and the clash of classes in New York, Egans first historical novel is a masterpiece, a deft, startling, intimate exploration of a transformative moment in the lives of women and men, America and the world. Manhattan Beach is a magnificent novel by one of the greatest writers of our time.
“Manhattan Beach” is principally a novel of New York. As such, it inevitably pays tribute to the city's iconography: its crowded tenements and highbrow retreats and quasi-legitimate nightclubs. But these familiar landmarks are not the focus of Egan's narrative. Refreshingly, Egan and her characters turn their backs on a Manhattan interior defined by subways and skyscrapers, Broadway and Wall Street, to look outward to sea.... Turning their backs on the crowded constraints of their urban lives, all three look to the ocean as a realm that while inherently dangerous also promises the potential for personal discovery and an almost mystical liberty. This is a novel that deserves to join the canon of New York stories.
—New York Times
Egan's well-researched narrative is detailed but never bogged down in particulars, and she successfully creates suspense even when offering rich details. I defy anyone with claustrophobia to read the descriptions of diving without developing sweaty palms! MANHATTAN BEACH is also a riveting noir thriller about memorable gangsters, shifting loyalties, and betrayal and its consequences. And, at its heart, it's a dual narrative of a father and daughter who are both on voyages of different sorts --- journeys that may or may not lead them back to one another.
—Bookreporter.com
Jennifer Egan has written a rich, brilliant, capacious new historical novel called Manhattan Beach.... Egan has every gift a writer can possess, and like all of her work Manhattan Beach is radiant with intelligence, special simply because it's by her.... Still, it is only Egan's talent and effort � there are more than a hundred names in the acknowledgments � that keep this novel afloat of its genre, coaxing a little fresh life out of the most over-dramatized period in American history.
—USA Today
The pages turn, the hours tick, "Manhattan Beach" unfolds and unfolds, and I am certain: The book in my hands is an inviolable vessel. "Manhattan Beach" is a historical novel by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "A Visit From the Goon Squad." Its "old-fashioned" emphasis on seamless plot and complex characters feels shockingly, and reassuringly, new.... "Manhattan Beach" is a whole story sprung from a whole imagination. It yields a world that, with all its mystery, its shades of dark and light, its yearnings and its satisfactions, feels most resplendently true.
—Chicago Tribune
Egan has managed to surprise us again with “Manhattan Beach” — not with structural innovations, but because it is an unexpectedly straightforward narrative, a historical novel set primarily in Brooklyn during World War II.... Given the expectations, you could say it's daring of Egan to go more traditional and plunge deep into the wartime history of her home borough. And while her new novel may be less technically innovative, it is an unusually well written, well researched, emotionally satisfying page-turner — which demonstrates that the power of her work lies beyond virtuosic literary stunts.... Egan certainly knows how to build tension, and her novel has the makings of a terrific action adventure movie. “Manhattan Beach” is the kind of book you can immerse yourself in happily, with no special equipment to encumber you.
—San Francisco Chronicle
This expansive book is a deeply researched historical novel set in the 1930s and '40s, told as a conventional narrative, sampling several genres along the way.... “Manhattan Beach” sails off in so many directions that I wondered where this ship was headed. It ultimately arrives at a safe harbor, thanks to Ms. Egan's talent for dazzling, specific descriptions that animate each chapter, and dialogue that rings true to her memorable characters and their era. But tying so many narrative strands together takes intricate, tricky plotting that at times requires the reader's willingness to suspend disbelief.... Despite some choppy waters, it's a worthwhile journey.
—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
These are a lot of stories to set in motion, and it takes “Manhattan Beach” a long time to get them running at full clip. The absence of any overriding vision tells in the novel's dawdling middle sections.... Fortunately, the novel's exciting ending helps to compensate for its longueurs. It makes sense that Ms. Egan, with her attraction to the unfathomable, finds her groove when her story takes to the sea. Eddie's ship is torpedoed by a U-boat and the suspenseful pages dramatizing his trials on the open ocean are almost worth the book's price tag on their own.... The thrill of her novels is in the dive to places unknown, not in anything she brings back to the surface.
—Wall Street Journal
What Jennifer Egan gives us in her novel “Manhattan Beach,” her first since the Pulitzer-winning “A Visit From the Goon Squad,” is good, old-fashioned writing — or old-fashioned good writing, which is something else again.... Much of what these characters think and do seems more explained than felt — and yet they're real enough to be moving. Much of what we see and hear — in a cramped apartment or the shipyard, at a nightclub or aboard ship — seems awash in particulars for the sake of verisimilitude, and yet it is convincing enough to take us where we're supposed to be. It is when we come to the sea, “an infinite hypnotic expanse that could look like scales, or wax; hammered silver; wrinkled flesh,” that artifice and experience invariably merge, and we witness the full reach of Egan's writing.
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
Egan covers this ground through a classically Victorian third-person narrator, channeling the thoughts of Eddie and Dexter as well as Anna while taking us around the globe in subplots featuring World War II at sea and power plays involving gangsters — all while occasionally moving back in time, through flashbacks telling us how Eddie and Dexter became who they are.... That's one of the many ways in which “Manhattan Beach” reminds me of Sarah Waters' magnificent “The Night Watch” (2006), another World War II novel that plays with time and features strong female characters trying to discover who they are. It's telling, in this context, that “Manhattan Beach” ends with fog rolling in from the sea — hiding the lay of the land from view.
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
It's a dreadnought of a World War II-era historical novel, bristling with armaments yet intimate in tone. It's an old-fashioned page-turner, tweaked by this witty and sophisticated writer so that you sometimes feel she has retrofitted sleek new engines inside a craft owned for too long by James Jones and Herman Wouk.... Egan is a generous writer. She doesn't write dialogue, for example, so much as she writes repartee. Many writers' books go slack when their characters open their mouths, as if dullness equals verisimilitude. Egan's minty dialogue snaps you to attention.... If I have a complaint about "Manhattan Beach," it's that while Egan is in full command of her gifts, there's only rarely a sense that she's pushing herself, or us. This novel is never estranging. It never threatens to overspill its levees, or to rip us far from shore and leave us there for a while. Egan works a formidable kind of magic, however. This is a big novel that moves with agility.
—New York Times
"Manhattan Beach" is a work of historical fiction, set in Depression and World War II-era New York City, with a colorful cast of characters including showgirls, union men, sailors, gangsters. It is also Egan's most remarkable accomplishment yet.... Egan deftly and movingly joins "Manhattan Beach's" ostensibly very different characters with surprising parallelisms, arresting images, and an ethically capacious gaze.... At once a suspenseful novel of noir intrigue, a gorgeously wrought and richly allusive literary tapestry, and a transporting work of lyrical beauty and emotional heft, "Manhattan Beach" is a magnificent achievement.
—Boston Globe
The new novel is fairly straightforward in construction but superbly devious in plot � its characters time and again blind to the true nature of the situations in which they find themselves.... The novel is a great exercise in storytelling might, throwing out two buttressing tales... Egan's extraordinary virtuosity of description and power of evoking a historical milieu are on display throughout "Manhattan Beach," which is alive with fully realized, brilliantly rendered characters; even minor players are picked out in unforgettable detail.... Alight with such moments of black comedy, this truly fine novel, so rich in period and emotional atmosphere and so cunningly plotted, is a joy (and a terror) � one of the standouts of the year.
—Newsday
“Manhattan Beach” may not offer the brilliant variety of forms found in “Goon Squad,” but Egan is still blending a jazzy range of tones in these chapters, from Tennessee Williams's apartment-trapped despair to Herman Melville's adventures at sea. And when Anna goes to a nightclub and recognizes Styles, her father's old employer, the novel swings into a particularly rich noir romance.... Egan has some fun mimicking the overheated pulp of her novel's predecessors with their cliffhanger chapter endings.... All these strong currents — from noir thriller to family drama to wartime adventure — eventually return to the private moment that opens “Manhattan Beach.” If that ending is surprisingly hopeful, it's never false, and it dares to satisfy us in a way that stories of an earlier age used to.
—Washington Post
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