Book Review: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan


3 disco balls

Published: October 3, 2017 by Scribner
Length: Hardcover, 438 pages
Category: Historical Fiction
National Book Award Nominee for Fiction (2017), Women’s Prize for Fiction Nominee for Longlist (2018), Andrew Carnegie Medal for Fiction (2018), Walter Scott Prize Nominee (2018), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction (2017)

I alternated back and forth between reading the hardcover and listening to the audio (which had 3 narrators). I liked to do that with books so I can optimize my reading time, especially when I have book club deadlines!

I liked the story, but at the 70% mark it just became okay to me. It wasn’t terrible, but I wasn’t moved in any way by it. The author did a good job of capturing the different dynamics within families, communities and the workplace (whether that workplace was legit or not). I always find the sign of the times of historical fiction fascinating. 

After the depression, Eddie Kerrigan lost his comfortable finance job and gets by working for the union. He will need to make more money for this family and eventually gets caught up working for a local mobster, Dexter Styles. His daughter Anna often tagged along on business trips, even meeting Dexter Styles at one point.

Fast forward 5 years, Eddie left his family with no word on his whereabouts. The country is at war and Anna gets a job at the Naval Yard inspecting parts for war ships and will work her way to being the first female diver. She will cross paths with Dexter Styles again, although he will not realize she is the daughter of his missing associate, Eddie Kerrigan.

You might ask after reading my synopsis: what does her working at the navel yard and being a female diver have to do with anything? Well, that was the most interesting part of the story and I wish there was more depth to that than what we are given. The trope we are actually given: let’s just say I was over it.

When you consider this snippet from the Goodreads synopsis you are expecting a whole heck of a lot:

With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men.

Noir thriller? I wouldn’t have thought that. For anyone who read it: am I wrong in my assessment? The gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers and union men in this story were nothing like HBO’s The Wire (the best show ever made!); they lacked depth, excitement and exhilaration. They were actually quite boring.

The last 30% of the book didn’t bring it full circle for me, but I do not regret reading it. I am looking forward to my book club meeting on this read this week. Lots to discuss.

Have you read Manhattan Beach and/or other works from Jennifer Egan? Do tell!

In keeping with my spoiler free theme I wanted to note that the comment section may contain a spoiler, so beware.


Purchase Links
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble

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21 thoughts on “Book Review: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

  1. Sorry this wasn’t a great read for you. I can’t say I have ever listened to an audio book and read a book off and on like that, but I like the concept.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved reading your review, you have such a wonderful style 🙂 I don’t know what it is with some books that even though they weren’t that awesome, they still stay with me and I want to discuss them. I suppose it was like that for you with this one?

    Liked by 1 person

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