If you read the goodreads reviews on Manhattan Beach you will see varied and strong opinions. Many people who loved Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, A Visit from the Goon Squad, did not like this one. But you can count me in the group who loved this newer book, only the second I’ve read off my fall/winter reading list.  In fact I was excited to also add it to my WWII reading list.

“With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Jennifer Egan’s first historical novel is a world of gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men.”

As the above note from the publisher implies, a lot is going on in this book. There is a family story, a strong woman helping the war effort story (the main character is the first female Naval diver), a love story about the sea, and a gangster plot that is integrated into all these other stories. It is sometimes a light read and sometimes not. Parts of it reminded me of several different books, but taken all together I have not read anything like it ( a good thing!).

For me it all worked, and in fact it is one of my favorite books of the year though I still feel my favorite is out there somewhere waiting for me to read it…

Egan had me at her inscription where she quoted Melville’s Moby Dick:

Yes, as everyone knows, mediation and water are wedded for ever.

Meditation and water are both strong themes in this book, throughout. I enjoyed the deeper  (literally) theme of water connecting it all.

In my long list of WWII reads not many (if any?) are actually set in America during this time, so I am happy to add this to my running list.