Read as part of CBR 11 Bingo: TBR Pile
Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach is such a brilliant, beautiful book that I’m having difficulty conjuring up words to review it. It’s not leaving me breathless the way 2666 did, more so a state of stark admiration where I feel like words won’t do it justice.
There are some writers who have a style that just works for the reader and I suppose Egan’s is one for me. Literature and general fiction are not really my bag so if you told me the plots of both A Visit From the Goon Squad and Manhattan Beach respectively, I would have had no interest in doing so. The former I did last year for a library bingo requirement. The latter I did because I liked the former so much.
Egan has a way with characterization. Although Goon Squad is mostly vignettes where the characters get brief moments on stage before disappearing (and sometimes reappearing as secondary characters), I felt like I knew them the whole time. With the space of an entire book to devote to the perspective of three characters, she really lets her talents shine.
The story is wonderfully knit together around these people, their era (WWII) and location (waterside New York). As it progressed, I felt deeper and deeper drawn to what the characters were doing, specifically the eternal conflict of what kind of person we are verses what we want to be. It’s that struggle that makes up the machinations of the book, one in which the characters have little-to-know power, even the ones that think they do. And yet, I felt for them every step of the way.
Whatever Jennifer Egan is writing in the future, I’m reading.