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Manhattan Beach

A Novel
Length: 15 hrs and 16 mins
Categories: Fiction, Historical
4 out of 5 stars (4,450 ratings)

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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, October 2017

In contrast to her Pulitzer Prize-winning and very modern A Visit From the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan's Manhattan Beach is traditional historical fiction in every way. Obviously impeccably researched, it's a sweeping novel steeped in the atmosphere of NYC, in particular the seaport neighborhoods of Brooklyn, from the Great Depression to WWII. Adding to Egan's brilliantly descriptive prose are the outstanding performances by narrators Norbert Leo Butz (two-time Tony Award winner), Heather Lind (TURN: Washington's Spies), and Vincent Piazza (Jersey Boys, Boardwalk Empire). This trio ups the ante, so to speak, making listening a truly immersive experience. —Tricia, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

The long-awaited novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, Manhattan Beach opens in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. Anna Kerrigan, nearly 12 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 nightclub 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, the reasons he might have been murdered.

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. Manhattan Beach is a magnificent novel by one of the greatest writers of our time.

©2017 Jennifer Egan (P)2017 Simon & Schuster, Inc.

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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A Narrative of a Girl Diver

I can't put my finger on why I like this book so much. Anna proves to be a three dimensional character and the men in her life interact with that beautifully if not somewhat unexpectedly. The narration is executed with rich texture and the tone really helps to illuminate some of the era's slang.

21 of 21 people found this review helpful

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Love !!

I loved listening to this gorgeously written book
All the characters are vividly written. It was almost like watching a fabulous wartime movie.
I hope a movie is made from this book. !

I listen to many book on audible, but this was my favorite as it has male & female readers and made it more wonderful ! Highly recommend r

36 of 38 people found this review helpful

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Loved it!

What a great story! Well told; superb narration, strong characters, great plot!
It brought me back to the streets of Brooklyn of my youth.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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I usually love Jennifer Egan, however...

I have no idea how it happened, maybe it was after I restarted the book for the third time. After the first two times I thought I was in the groove of the book. But after round three I was still completely lost.

I was put off by the back and forth narration. That might have been one cause of my overall confusion. Heather Lind has a beautiful voice. Almost hypnotic. I had to pinch myself a couple of times so I would sit up straight and be an active listener.

It could have been I didn't listen to this book from beginning to end in one sitting. Maybe, but I usually follow most other books.

I think it was the story. A long, slow moving story.

Still love Jennifer Egan. Just not this one.

37 of 41 people found this review helpful

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Crossed lives in wartime

Wonderful, thoroughly absorbing novel that explores the lives of almost-inadvertently remarkable everyday New Yorkers, in the 1930s and the early 1940s. Anna, her father Eddie, nightclub owner Dexter. They're so wonderfully alive. This novel is more "traditional" than Egan's Pulitzer-winning "Greetings from the Goon Squad," but it's nevertheless an utterly contemporary exploration of who we believe we are, and our relation to where we live and how that fuels our dreams.
More than the majority of novels set in New York, Egan's makes us aware of the sea that surrounds and defines the city. She plunges us into another age, and we are there as if by magic -- this is a historical novel that feels lived-in rather than researched.
The alternating voices in this audio book give it an added dimension, and Norbert Leo Butz, Heather Lind and Vincent Piazza capture the soul, longing and yearning of their characters. A triumph.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Soppy and sentimental

I read this book because I was interested in the unusual historical take on the War. The descriptions of diving and sea battle were well researched and interesting. But the plot was convoluted and sentimental with too many coincidences. Instead of writing in the language the characters would have used, Egan embellished the third person narrative voice with the kind of literary and metaphoric language one might find in a ladies' Victorian romance. All in all, full of literary dissonance.

The readers were only fair. Anna's character was rendered even more soppy by the febrile excitement of the reader, whose lisp seemed oddly artificial and annoying. The male reader was simply bland, unable to breathe life into the diverse cast of characters he had to portray.

17 of 19 people found this review helpful

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Well written, but pointless.

I didn't hate my time listening to it, but looking back, I can't believe it was so long without really providing any substance. I felt like there was no climax. I was waiting for something spectacular to happen, and then it just ended without really giving any satisfaction.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea

The sea is sometimes beautiful in Manhattan Beach, but it is also dangerous and deadly. Anna goes with her father Eddie Kerrigan to see mob boss Dexter Styles at Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn at the start of this book, during the Great Depression, as a 12-year-old. Ten years later, her father has disappeared, she is a wartime worker at the Brooklyn Navy Yard hoping to become a diver, and she becomes reacquainted with Dexter, who she thinks knows what happened to her father and maybe even had something to do with it.

That is not much plot for a 15-hour book, but this is a literary novel that is about a time and a place and the characters who inhabit it. The pace is slow, the plot (as thin as it is) has some major holes, but the characters are worth the listen, if you take to them -- and the sea as well as the city are characters in this story as much as Anna, Eddie, and Dexter.

I had mixed feelings about Jennifer Egan's acclaimed Goon Squad, and even though I weigh in on the positive side of Manhattan Beach, I remain unconvinced about Egan's lofty status as a contemporary literary figure. What I do really like about Manhattan Beach is the overarching metaphor of diving as a parallel of and vehicle for Anna's growth into a modern American woman.

I also like the multi-character narration, with different voices for each of the three main characters. I can't guarantee that you'll like this -- I went into this knowing there was a good chance that I would not like it. The mixed reviews suggest this is a love-it or hate-it book, and I suspect that hinges almost entirely on whether you like the main characters or not, especially Anna.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Wonderful Story More Standard Than Most Egan

An incredibly well written novel (no surprise). Jennifer Egan's prose is clear and concise but also beautiful and evocative. In this case, she puts her talents to use in a straight-forward novel instead of using unique/experimental techniques and structure.

Well, the structure is a little bit adventurous.The book follows multiple characters through time and place. Using the first person, Egan shifts narration between characters--but all of the story lines ultimately center around Anna. Her story is compelling, and the way it unfolds makes it even more so.

This is a great historical novel with very specific details that make it almost feel like non-fiction.

The narration is fantastic. I am convinced that using multiple narrators is the best way to create an audiobook. Heather Lind was especially good at voicing each character differently.



3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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A great story and brilliant writing

The Author has written a page turner that seems historically accurate and depicts the social upheavals caused by WW II. The three central characters, in addition to the sea which dominates much of the narrative, are all drawn as real 3 dimensional people. I have listened to at least one hundred audible books this novel may be my ATF.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful