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 father’s life.
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, Egan’s 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. (Goodreads)
I’m sorry to say that this book was a disappointing read for me. After reading the book blurb I was really looking forward to reading it. Historical fiction with a little mystery mixed in, sounded like the perfect combination. However, after reading it I didn’t feel like I had even read a full story.
It felt as though the author had a bunch of ideas thrown into this book but none of them were fully formed. The story jumps between different character perspectives and between past and present. You can definitely see how much research Egan put into book, and while I respected how many little details she included, I thought that the story just got lost in those details. I also found the characters to be underdeveloped. There were times when a character was brought back into the story and I had to flip back in order to remember who they were.
I think Egan had a lot of potential with this story, her writing is beautiful, some scenes jumped right off the page and made me feel like I was there in New York City. I think the main problem for me was that there were too many different storylines that didn’t work together cohesively. In my opinion, the story was just too broad, and because of this I was unable to become fully invested in the novel.
Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for providing me with a copy for review.