Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan

2 Stars

Manhattan Beach is a World War II historical novel about a pioneering young woman, Anna Kerrigan, who becomes the first female diver at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Unfortunately, Manhattan Beach was a deeply unsatisfying book.  My biggest complaint is that major characters routinely disappear:  Anna’s father, Nell, Dexter Styles, and Anna’s mother. Anna has no significant emotional reaction to these disappearances, instead making horrendous decisions that jeopardize everything for which she has toiled in very dangerous circumstances. Two scenes in particular—the first in a boathouse, the second at the bottom of New York harbor—left me questioning her devotion to her father, whom she supposedly adored.

I was disappointed that the characters were not very well developed.  The most interesting character in the book turns out to be Anna’s invalid sister, Lydia. Anna’s relationship with Lydia is sympathetic and endearing and the only one where she demonstrates emotional depth.

 


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