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Book Review: 'Manhattan Beach'

Elisabetta A. Villa

If you need to love a character to love the book, don't hesitate to dive headfirst into Manhattan Beach by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan.


Egan's protagonist is tender, ambitious, confused, loving, brave and determined. If you need to love sentence after well crafted sentence you can surf endlessly on the fluid language of Manhattan Beach. If you need a page turning plot you will sail the gale winds of Manhattan Beach. Jennifer Egan is an artist of the highest form.

We meet 12-year-old Anna Kerrigan accompanying her father on a visit to meet a man named Dexter Styles, and even at that young age, she senses all is not above-board. Later, during WWII, Anna’s father disappears and Anna goes to work at the Brooklyn Naval Shipyard--replacing the men who are off fighting war. She becomes the first woman diver--a dangerous job for anyone--so she can make necessary repairs to war ships. Evenings she spends like any young woman her age; in clubs with friends. After she comes in contact again with Dexter Styles, we pick up on her father’s mysterious life. Still, she continues her dangerous work. 

Filled with gangsters and sailors, night club owners and bankers, this is no ordinary WWII novel; it is also vision of Americans in a time and place, and our place in the world. Like Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book A Visit From the Goon Squad, here she gives us often-overlooked details of our own history--wrapped up in a book you can’t put down.