A Visit from the Goon Squad is one of those novels that continually haunts those who inhabit the world of books. For years now, friends, acquaintances, colleagues and strangers alike have approached me with the inevitable “Have you read Goon Squad? No? You must read it!” or “Yes? Isn’t it great!” And A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan is great. The prize-winning contemporary novel told in 13 stories described by some as “post-postmodern” (I know, let’s not think about it) is a truly wonderful book. But it’s nothing like Jennifer Egan’s new creation, Manhattan Beach.
Manhattan Beach is a more traditional novel, Egan’s first foray into the realm of historical fiction. Anna Kerrigan, at twelve-years-old meets a wealthy gangster involved with some unknown business with her father. Years later, as the US is joining the Second World War, Anna fights to become one of the first women to pick up tools and go to work at New York’s naval yards when, by coincidence, she is met by the gangster once again. Entering this man’s orbit is Anna’s only chance to uncover the mystery of her father’s disappearance.
This book is a welcome addition to any reader’s bedside table. The noirish narrative is enthralling and atmospheric with Anna, and every character in her world, written intimately. It also fills the mind with historical nuggets from American history – organised crime, class struggle in 20th Century New York and the transformative power of that war, particularly in the lives of women.
Told with enough warmth, wit and wisdom to win over the most cynical of readers, this novel is a reminder as to why we return to the form again and again. Jennifer Egan is in a class of her own.
About the Reviewer
Ben Hunter works at Booktopia as a web merchandiser and lives in Sydney’s Inner West. When he’s not reading or creating collections and emails for Booktopia, you’ll find him playing frisbee, eating pastries or watching Meg Ryan movies with his mum. He’s an avid recycler and a poor speller. He sometimes tweets @itsbenhunter.
The long-awaited novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, Manhattan Beach opens in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Anna observes the uniformed servants, the lavishing of toys on the children, and some secret pact between her father and Dexter Styles.
Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that had always belonged to men. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous...
About the Contributor
Tanaya has been a lover of books for as long as she can remember. Now, her book collection is a little out of control, mostly consisting of YA fiction and pretty hardcovers. When she’s not reading, she spends a lot of her time taking photos of books for her bookstagram account, @prettypagesblog. She also has a love of Disneyland, bullet journaling and cats.
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