Manhattan Beach by Jennifer EganAnna 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.
With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world.
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He vanished without a trace several years earlier, leaving behind Anna, her younger sister Lydia, who is profoundly disabled, and their mother Agnes. While Agnes cares for Lydia, Anna works in the Brooklyn Naval Yard where she measures machine parts that will be part of a battleship. But when she sees men in heavy suits being lowered to the bottom of the bay to do repairs, she is determined to join them. On the ocean floor, with the weight of water above her and a mysterious world of buried secrets around her, Anna finally feels at home. Whatever happens, the world has been forever changed. And then her path crosses once more with that of Styles, an encounter which opens up possibilities of change and discovery.
Though this encounter in is brief, and circumstances quickly send the three characters in disparate directions, readers will understand that their fates have just become inextricably intertwined. The willing suspension of disbelief does not exist in a single form. In the context of different types of stories, the suspension of disbelief asks very different things of us, poses different problems and offers different rewards. Pursuing these threads, Egan introduces us to an array of subcultures, each with its own language and arcana. And, most important, through Anna and her battles against a variety of obstacles to enter the nascent and risk-laden world of commercial diving, we experience the rapidly evolving role of young women in American society. Read the full list here. It is no coincidence that these subcultures are mostly professional in nature.
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Jennifer Egan: ‘I was never a hot, young writer. But then I had a quantum leap’
The author of four previous novels and a collection of short stories, Egan broke free of the Brooklyn-writer pack with her Pulitzer Prize—winning A Visit From the Goon Squad , one of the most stirring and unusual works of fiction of the past decade. Something between a novel and a collection of linked stories, it follows more than a dozen characters in interconnected episodes spanning nearly five decades. Each segment plunges the reader into the life of a different character, someone who has appeared already in an earlier episode, now seen more intimately. The change in perspective can take a moment to register—how did the earnest teenage music fan become the hotshot record producer we saw in the previous chapter? There are moments when the wheel spins wildly, letting us glance years ahead, then returning us gently to where we were. Almost everything happens in the pauses, the gaps between the chapters.