Should I have included e) None of the above? Possibly… Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach was dull.
Set in New York during WWII, the story follows Anna Kerrigan, who works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard. Anna becomes the first female diver, repairing war ships.
Egan’s writing is perfectly serviceable. I wasn’t cringing or skimming pages but nor was I entertained. There were no sentences that I re-read for the pure joy of them, nothing to surprise or delight. It was all rather ordinary…which is quite a feat given that as well as the highly dangerous scuba diving missions, there was a war going on, there were plenty of gangsters (doing deals and disposing of bodies), there were love affairs, and there was a missing father and a disabled sister. For a plot that was so ‘busy’, I’m stumped as to why I found it boring.
In terms of the answer to the poll, I was most interested in the bits about diving, and the fact that women were working during the war at jobs that once belonged to men. But while some of the procedural information was interesting, the emotion was absent (and you know I like good writing about water – see Winton or Parrett).
She watched, spellbound, as the helpers lifted a spherical metal helmet over the diver’s head, encasing him within it. There was something primarily familiar about the diving suit – as if from a dream or a myth.
I received my copy of Manhattan Beach from the publisher, Scribner, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
As part of the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge, I’m comparing the Belfast summer and Melburnian winter. The results for the day I finished this book (August 12): Belfast 15°-21° and Melbourne 6°-14°.