Book Review by Dinh.
I always look forward to reading a book written by Pulitzer prize winner. Jennifer Egan won the prize for fiction in 2011 with A Visit From The Goon Squad.
Manhattan Beach, Egan’s latest novel, was named one of the best books of the year by NPR, The Guardian, Esquire, The Washington Post, Time, USA TODAY, and Vogue.
So I had expected Manhattan Beach, to be excellent.
Manhattan Beach, however was a disappoint for me. I had high hopes but I wasn’t pulled into the book and was left unsatisfied.
While this book was an okay read, it did not live up to all the hype it was given.
One thing Egan did well was the details on the 1930s and 1940s. I thought that she created the atmosphere well. I could imagine the era with the descriptions.
I did enjoy that it was written in the third person and we got Anna’s, Eddie’s and Dexter’s viewpoints.
However, Egan’s style of writing was mediocre and I found the book to be slow, even with the good amount of dialogue on the pages.
The story line’s premise seemed straight forward enough, Anna’s father Eddie disappears and she is left wondering where he is. Was he dead? Or did he run off?
The story line on how she found her answer was convoluted and unbelievable. The narrative takes some jumps which made the story move forward but a lot is lost in the process. The disjointedness made it confusing and didn’t help the plot.
Moreover, I was expecting a character driven story line but this was not what I got. What I got were characters who could have been more developed and a story line that went off on a tangent that you forgot what the point of the story was.
In addition, Manhattan Beach was not compelling so I was turning the pages slowly.
I did think that the characters had potential but they were not developed enough. The three main characters were Anna, her dad Eddie and Dexter Styles, Eddie’s boss.
Though the story focused on Anna, I did find her father’s character Eddie more interesting. His story took hold in much of the second half of the book.
The second half of the book was mainly about Eddie and his sea voyage, which I thought was a bit too much, even though his story was interesting.
- Anna Kerrigan
I liked Anna’s character. She was strong. In a male dominated world of diving, she stood her ground and succeeded in becoming the first female diver. Some of Anna’s choices didn’t ring true to me. I didn’t like that she developed a sexual relationship with Dexter Style, her father’s boss who had mob/gangster connections.
- Eddie Kerrigan
Eddie was an interesting character. I liked that he was conflicted. He tried his best for his disabled daughter Lydia but he couldn’t love her like he loved Anna. Eddie made decisions that he regretted and wanted to change and I liked that.
- Dexter Styles
Dexter Styles was a typical shady, good looking character with connections to the mob. He changed his name to Styles to erase his Italian heritage. Though the book portrayed him with sensibilities, he was ruthless and calculating. He cheats on his wife regularly and had people killed off, including trying to kill Eddie Kerrigan.
Don’t we all like a happy ending? Well that’s what we get.
Why, I ask. I didn’t like that it was wrapped up so neatly and happily. It seemed a bit ridiculous and far fetched.
My Final Thoughts
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan was an okay read but it did not live up to all the hype it was given.
The book had the potential to be good but the characters were underdeveloped for me and it left me unsatisfied.
Because the story was disjointed and the characters were under developed, I struggled to read it.
Fans of Egan may want to check it out.