Manhattan Beach: A Novel
Jennifer Egan's Manhattan Beach captures a time and place on the verge of momentous change. Set in Brooklyn in the 1940s, the novel tells the story of Anna Kerrigan, a young woman who has dropped out of Brooklyn College to contribute what she can to the American war effort. Unsatisfied with her job of inspecting and measuring machine parts, she attempts to enter the male-only world of deep-sea diving. Manhattan Beach is rich and atmospheric, highlighting a period when gangs controlled the waterfront, jazz streamed from the doors of nightclubs, and the future for everyone was far from certain.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A New York Times Notable Book
Winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction
The daring and magnificent novel from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author.
Named One of the Best Books of the Year by NPR, Esquire, Vogue, The Washington Post, The Guardian, USA TODAY, and Time
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.
“A magnificent achievement, at once a suspenseful noir intrigue and a transporting work of lyrical beauty and emotional heft” (The Boston Globe), “Egan’s first foray into historical fiction makes you forget you’re reading historical fiction at all” (Elle). Manhattan Beach takes us into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men in a dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world.
Praise for Manhattan Beach: A Novel
"A bounteous miracle that makes you feel that past time, and our time, differently; everything becomes freshly energized, infused with humanity, vital, sad, and full of importance. To see the world through Egan’s eyes is to be moved, through language, to new adoration of the world. I don’t know a better writer working today. There is a generosity in her prose that is vastly enlivening to its reader and brings about that beautiful effect fiction sometimes causes: more, and better-grounded, fondness for reality, just as it is."
"Manhattan Beach is so rich in detail and atmosphere; such an exploration of underworlds of all kinds, filled with lessons on lifelines and buoyancy and how to bear life’s weight by diving deep into it. Jennifer Egan has masterfully conjured an era we are on the cusp of losing. Her novel is an absorbing story, beautifully written. Its strands of subtle intrigue and quiet heroism make you reluctant to leave each page while eager to get to the next."
"A novel that deserves to join the canon of New York stories."
—Amor Towles, New York Times Book Review
“Manhattan Beach is ambitiously and deliciously plot-driven.”
—NPR's Fresh Air
“…dares to satisfy us in a way that stories of an earlier age used to.”
—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“An unusually well written, well researched, emotionally satisfying page-turner . . . Manhattan Beach is the kind of book you can immerse yourself in happily.”
—Heller McAlpin, San Francisco Chronicle
“Jennifer Egan . . . continues a string of wildly various and imaginative novels with Manhattan Beach… The thrill of her novels is in the dive to places unknown.”
—Alexandra Wolfe, Wall Street Journal
“Rich, brilliant, capacious . . . Egan has every gift a writer can possess . . . . Moving, mournful, and often profound.”
“Egan’s most remarkable accomplishment yet. . . . At once a suspenseful novel of noir intrigue, a gorgeously wrought and richly allusive literary tapestry, and a transporting work of lyrical beauty and emotional heft, Manhattan Beach is a magnificent achievement.”
—Priscilla Gilman, The Boston Globe
“[Egan has a] talent for dazzling, specific descriptions that animate each chapter, and dialogue that rings true to her memorable characters and their era.”
—Eileen Weiner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“What Jennifer Egan gives us in Manhattan Beach . . . is good, old-fashioned writing—or old-fashioned good writing, which is something else again.”
—Ellen Akins, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“A story of Dickensian ambition that benefits mightily from [Egan’s] meticulous attention to detail and her rich, evocative language.”
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Manhattan Beach is… beautifully written throughout… But for an author who won literature’s highest accolade for a book based on its uniqueness, it’s perhaps even more impressive that she can also write a fantastic novel that is, at least on the surface, as classic as they come.”
“Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan makes her maiden deep dive into historical fiction with the vivid Manhattan Beach.”
“[Egan’s] prose moves in a way that feels effortless, a sure sign that it’s anything but. . . . It’s the best sort of historical fiction, transporting the reader to another place without ever loosing bonds of the familiar. Egan’s characters are vivid, their authenticity a kind of wonder, their losses and joys achingly true. . . . Egan sets the knot, and we are all in thrall.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine
"Highly atmospheric... immediate... expertly written"
“The novel’s crooked politicians, organized-crime bosses, and shady cops make it read like a fast-paced, hard-boiled drama.”
“This truly fine novel, so rich in period and emotional atmosphere and so cunningly plotted, is a joy — one of the standouts of the year.”
“A richly imagined portrait of a bygone era.”
“Genuinely affecting and handsomely constructed. It moves for all the right reasons.”
—The Independent UK
“A work of remarkable cinematic scope. . . . This is a novel that will pull you in and under and carry you away on its rip tides. . . . Its resonances continue to wash over the reader long after the novel ends.”
—The Guardian UK
“Intricately patterned and visionary . . . .Manhattan Beach . . . plunges into the past to discover what lies beneath the surface of our own world.”
“Reading Manhattan Beach feels restorative . . . deeply imagined . . . [and] very, very welcome.”
“Excellent . . . .Manhattan Beach is a fleet, sinuous epic, abounding with evocative details and felicitous metaphors . . . . [it] magnificently captures the country on the brink of triumph and triumphalism.”
"Ambitious, compassionate, engrossing.”
—Francine Prose, The New York Review of Books
“Egan’s first foray into historical fiction makes you forget you’re reading historical fiction at all.”
“Egan’s prose is transparent and elegant. . . .But the chief joy of reading Manhattan Beach lies in diving under the surface pleasures of the plot (which are plentiful — it’s immersive and compelling), and sinking slowly to its dark and unknowable depths. There are deep truths there.”
“Manhattan Beach is an enthralling work of historical fiction that weaves together beautiful imagery, an immersive story, and compelling characters into a single story of family secrets and unconditional love.”
—My San Antonio
“It’s an astutely executed piece of historical literature that’s also unafraid to indulge in the thrills of its rich plot.”
—Minneapolis City Pages
“Jennifer Egan does everything right as a novelist, with vivid characters and surprising enough plot twists… but she pushes all her work some notches higher with her evocation of what it feels like to be the first woman to experience the previously forbidden world of undersea divers.”
“Manhattan Beach” is an old-fashioned page-turner that more than delivers on the foreboding promise of its 'Treasure Island'-like opening set piece. The book is a Whitmanesque mosaic that truly does 'embrace multitudes.'”
—Brooklyn Daily Eagle
“Tremendously assured and rich, moving from depictions of violence and crime to deep tenderness. The book’s emotional power once again demonstrates Egan’s extraordinary gifts.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“After stretching the boundaries of fiction in myriad ways...Egan does perhaps the only thing left that could surprise: she writes a thoroughly traditional novel. Realistically detailed, poetically charged, and utterly satisfying: apparently there’s nothing Egan can’t do.”
—Kirkus (starred review)
“Egan’s propulsive, surprising, ravishing, and revelatory saga, a covertly profound page-turner that will transport and transform every reader, casts us all as divers in the deep, searching for answers, hope, and ascension.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“This large, ambitious novel shows Egan at the top of her game. Anna is a true feminist heroine, and her grit and tenacity will make readers root for her.”
—Library Journal (starred review)