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review 2018-09-09 20:02
"Manhattan Beach": Feministische Heldin
Manhattan Beach: A Novel - Jennifer Egan

Mit Anna, die während des Zweiten Weltkriegs in NYC als Taucherin arbeitet, hat Jennifer Egan eine äußerst spannende Protagonistin geschaffen. In einer patriarchisch-sexistischen Welt setzt sie sich mit Entschlossenheit, Hartnäckigkeit und stiller Stärke durch, ohne dabei je übertrieben oder aggressiv zu agieren. Um ihren Traum vom Tauchen zu erfüllen, muss sie ein Vielfaches mehr leisten, als ihre männlichen Kollegen. Selbst als sie besser als alle anderen ist, muss sie weiter für ihre Position kämpfen – das sind alle Themen, die bis heute noch aktuell sind. Gleichzeitig balanciert sie ihr schwieriges Privatleben, denn der Vater hat die Familie verlassen. Anna kümmert sich liebevoll um ihre behinderte Schwester und hilft nach Feierabend ihrer Mutter bei deren Arbeit als Näherin. Dabei sucht sie in ihrer knappen Freizeit Anschluss an andere und stolpert dabei in einige unvorteilhafte Bekanntschaften hinein. Anna ist eine komplexe Protagonistin, deren Geschichte mich gefesselt hat.

Der Klappentext suggeriert, dass Anna im Mittelpunkt des Romans steht, doch eigentlich gibt es drei Protagonisten. Neben Anna sind auch ihr Vater Eddie sowie der Clubbesitzer und Gangster Dexter Styles Protagonisten in „Manhattan Beach“. Die Wege der Drei kreuzen sich immer wieder auf interessante Weise.

Man merkt, dass die Autorin für diesen Roman intensiv über das Tauchen und die Marine in den 1930er und 1940er Jahren recherchiert hat. Ihre Beschreibungen sind plastisch und lebendig – beim Lesen kann man den schweren Tauchanzug oder den starken Wellengang förmlich spüren. Die Weltkriegsjahre in den USA lässt Egan vor dem inneren Auge authentisch auferstehen. Auch wenn ihr Wissen beeindruckt, empfand ich die Szenen von Eddies Alltag an Bord eines Schiffes als am wenigsten interessant. Die Geschichte rund um Anna macht dies jedoch wett.

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review 2018-04-15 17:04
Dive into this gorgeous lit fic
Manhattan Beach: A Novel - Jennifer Egan

Honestly? My first reaction to realizing the story was set in the 1930s and 40s was to groan because I really really did not feel like reading a period novel right now. Yeah, well, Egan can write any time period and from now on, I’ll follow her without complaint.

 

I pretty much did nothing for two days except read this book from cover to cover. All three of the main players in this book were fascinating to follow. Especially Anna, forging a path as the first female diver, against societal disapproval, and the many obstacles put in her path. Her certainty about the direction she wanted to take in her life, especially in that time period, was so refreshing.

 

Unlike many of the books I read, there wasn’t an ounce of snark or, really, romance, in this story. What grounded it for me was a compelling specificity of time and place, as well as the wonderfully fleshed out characters. This isn’t some Shakespearean epic. I found the story to be much more narrowed-focused: a smaller scope, but no less impactful with it’s themes of gender politics, and flawed men versus the heroes they aspired to be. Plus, setting it largely in the naval yards, gave me a glimpse into a New York that I’d never come across in my reading history.

 

If you’re going to read Manhattan Beach, surrender yourself to it, like you would to the sea. Ride the swells and dips; and enjoy the journey.

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review 2017-12-27 03:27
Nostalgic for me, but a disappointing read.
Manhattan Beach: A Novel - Jennifer Egan

Manhattan Beach, Jennifer Egan, author; Norbert Leo Butz,‎ Heather Lind,‎ and Vincent Piazza, narrators.

The book takes place after Prohibition, but the effects of The Great Depression are everywhere. Edward Kerrigan needs work to support his wife and two daughters, one of whom is severely disabled. Shipping has dried up, and there is no work for longshoremen. He takes his precocious, headstrong 11 year old daughter, Anna, to a business meeting with Dexter Styles, a well known and influential gangster. The meeting is in Dexter’s home in Manhattan Beach which is an affluent area of Brooklyn, Although Styles owns legitimate nightclubs, they have secret backroom gambling casinos. He is dangerous; those who defy him disappear, but Eddie is desperate. After being introduced to Dexter, Anna plays with his children on the beach. She is impressed by the size and beauty of the house and the many luxuries and toys the children possess. 

The book then travels in time. Anna is now 19. When she was 14, her dad simply vanished from her life with no explanation. She is now working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard with other young women who are doing the jobs of the men who have been called up to serve in the military. World War II is raging. A free spirit, she wants to be a diver, an occupation open only to men since the diving suit is heavy and the work is dangerous. She sets out to accomplish that goal and is ultimately successful, against all odds. Right now, her lifestyle is very simple. She and her mom take care of her handicapped sister, Lydia. When she meets a woman named Nell, she begins to push the envelope a bit and live more recklessly. She meets Dexter Styles again, but he does not recognize her and she gives him a false name. He unwittingly changes the arc of both their lives as his, Edward’s and Anna’s intersect.

The book continues to travel back and forth in time, largely through the memories and lives of Dexter, Edward and Anna. It is how secrets are revealed to the reader but not to the characters from whom they were hidden. I found the story to alternately be credible and/or contrived for several reasons. Although, I was brought up in Brooklyn, some decades after Anna, Manhattan Beach was still a place we ordinary souls only dreamt about. When one of our friends moved there, we thought his family had made it to the top. I heard many stories about gangsters. One lived a block away from me and was supposedly thrown from a window. My friend’s dad worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. As a young girl of 16, I had a boyfriend in the Navy, and Tabitha Styles crush on her cousin Grady, and the description of the uniform, brought those memories back! Prospect Park was a favorite place to go rowing until it became too dangerous to go there. My family loved eating out at Lundi’s and gorging ourselves on the Shore Dinner mentioned, which was several courses of heaven followed by dessert. The Charlotte Russe was my dad’s favorite sweet treat. My aunt’s friend was a Texas Guinan dancer, and everyone wanted to be in Ziegfield’s Follies. Nightclubs were elegant and for special occasions, but off limits for most of us, unless for an organized pre-planned party of some sort. Sweet sixteens were often held at those venues. Coney Island and Steeplechase were places to simply have fun, and walking through the turning barrel at its entrance was a highlight of the experience. Ringolevio was a game played by all of us, happily, for hours, as well as stoop ball. All of these things are mentioned in the book, and for those reasons, I enjoyed it, but my experiences were out of the time zone in the book.  Therefore, I thought the story was an odd mix of historic fiction and fairy tale. It was sometimes credible and sometimes hard to believe, especially since there was no woman diver in a diving suit until 1975, more than thirty years later. In addition, I remember that girls who got into trouble were shamed mercilessly, and they disappeared. If they were in school, they had to leave. I found Anna’s reaction to her predicament a bit cavalier and unrealistic, especially for that time period. She seemed to alternate between a naïve young woman and a sophisticated adult. It seemed a bit disingenuous or schizophrenic.

All in all, the book seemed to contain a lot of extraneous information and details in an attempt to illustrate the influence of gangsters at a terrible time of history. It clearly showed the inequality of women and their lack of power and rights. Because they had little influence and were barred from so many things, they often had to make desperate decisions. Only the strong willed could survive independently. It also touched on homosexuality and racism, issues still problematic today. I don’t think this book quite measured up to her last one, “A Visit From The Goon Squad”.

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review 2017-11-28 18:38
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Manhattan Beach: A Novel - Jennifer Egan

A special thank you to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Canada for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Egan's latest offering takes place in America during the Depression.  Twelve-year-old Anna Kerrigan accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who she perceives to be important.  Anna can't help but notice the lavish house equipped with servants, toys for the children, and the pact between Styles and her father.

Years later the country is at war, Anna's father has disappeared, and she has to support her mother and disabled sister with work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  Because of the war, women are allowed to work and perform jobs that were traditionally jobs for men.  She becomes the first female diver—an incredibly dangerous occupation—repairing naval ships.  Anna meets Dexter Styles at a nightclub and realizes that he is the man she visited with her father before his disappearance.  Styles has ties to the mob and Anna begins to understand the complexity of her father's life.    

The first section is smart, sharp, and brilliantly executed.  Egan's writing is solid, exactly what you would expect.  Then the novel makes one of many jumps in time and the story becomes scattered.  There is a complete lack of harmony and the reader is left with a rambling narrative that is a mash-up of three stories.  Hinging on boring at times, I didn't connect with the characters, or the plot, and this is disappointing because Egan has obviously done her homework.  

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review 2017-10-18 19:11
Manhattan Beach: A Novel - Jennifer Egan
I absolutely loved reading this book and sharing Anna Kerrigan's life journey. A story that was set in pre-war and during World War II. It dealt with so many topics that were current at that time. Men leaving their families because they couldn't handle the fact they could not provide for them was just one. It also dealt with women doing men's jobs and the harassment that those women dealt with on a daily basis.

I really felt like I was living in that era while reading this book. The author did such a great job in so aspects with this book.

A coming of age story that, for me, was excellent, unputdownable and one that I will surely think back to 2017 and consider it one of the best reads that year.

Now, I am certainly driven to read her first major prize winning book "A Visit From the Goon Squad" a copy of which I have, but have never done so.

Thanks to Scribner and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
 
 

 

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