One of the ladies from our town library brought this novel to my attention. The cover didn´t talk to me very much, but the text on the back did. And after reading a bit into it, I thought, why don´t give it a try? Good, I have to admit, that I am not sure if I will read another book written by the author in the near or far future. And I still have no idea where the story went, I read about on the back of the book.

Manhattan Beach*
by Jennifer Egan
Publisher Scribner on October 30, 2017
Genre Novel
Pages 448
Format Hardcover
Source Library

Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men. Years later, her father has disappeared, and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that once belonged to men, now soldiers abroad. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. One evening at a nightclub, she meets Dexter Styles again and begins to understand the complexity of her father´s life, the reasons he might have vanished. 
Anna is twelve when she meets Dexter Styles for the very first time. He, a husband and father, shows her, that there is more in this world than only being a girl. Years later, now a grown-up woman, she sees him again and goes with her instinct. Her dream: to become a diver. But with men still believing that women aren´t good for anything else but standing in the kitchen and bear babies, she has to fight for that she wants. And proof to herself, that she can do what she wants to do.

I am still wondering where in this novel the red thread was. Sure, the novel is structured in eight parts and during those, the reader gets to know Anna from the age of twelve to twenty at the end of the novel. And yes, it was quite nice to see that Anna had her very own way to be with other kids, that she had her own ideas of how everything should be and that she is not like other girls her age. But what I missed was some sort of structure within those parts. Instead, the story jumps back and forth, shows you one scene of how Anna sees everything, and the next you are in the middle of a scene where Dexter or her father are doing what they have to do. It happened a lot that I had to go back to previous pages to find out where I missed the move from one scene to another only to find out that there was none. That the author had simply sprung from a moment with Anna or her father to something that had happened in the past of Dexter´s life or her fathers. It was confusing and nothing I appreciate in a novel. 

That Anna was going her way, that she did everything to give her sister some great moments, that she was determined to become a diver and did everything to prove that she could do the job, that was, no doubt, wonderful to read. But the rest?  

Anna is weird. She can´t play with others or act and speak like other girls do. She plays a role when she is together with other kids, girls in particular but, only with Nell, a beauty and desperate to get a rich man, she can be herself. Both work at the navy yard, but while Anna does everything other women wouldn´t dare to think about, Nell uses her beauty to get what she wants. At first, I was wondering why Anna was the way, she was. She seemed more like a boy to me. Was behaving like one and did all the girly stuff only when she was forced to by her mother. But after some pages, it became very clear to me, that she was that way because of her father. Obviously, he had hoped that he would father a son one day but was only blessed with two daughters. 

Manhattan Beach is no read for those, who like to see some romance, a bit passion, and a plot somewhere in the back with a few historical facts combined. This is a novel that wants your time and undivided attention. Men are in charge, no matter what and women can only do what they allow them to do. There are some brutal scenes in it that show you that everything can change from one minute to the next and that money rules everything. If you like to see history from a bit different angle, this might be the right book for you. For me, it was a nice read, but not what I call a page-turner. 

Happy reading

*I read the German edition new release by S. Fischer on August 29, 2018 

Jennifer Egan
Jennifer Egan ©Pieter M. van Hattem

Jennifer Egan was born in Chicago, US, in 1962 and grew up in San Francisco. She lives with her husband and two sons in Brooklyn, New York. In addition to her novels and short stories, she writes for the New York Times and the New York Times Magazine and teaches creative writing at Columbia University. In 2011 she was awarded for her novel A Visit from the Goon Squad the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. 


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