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  • I didn't want it to end

    Jennifer Egan is always interesting, and this book, while very different to her previous one, is no exception. As the novel opens in Depression-era New York, Anna Kerrigan is a forceful eleven-year-old, accompanying her father, Eddie, to a mysterious meeting with Dexter Styles. It's clear to the reader, although not yet to Anna, that Styles is a gangster, and that her father's business with him is unlikely to be anything legal. The narratives of these three characters spiral outwards over the following 400 pages and decade, keeping the reader wondering as to what really happened that day. When we next meet Anna and Dexter, the Second World War is underway and Anna is working at the Navy Yard, eventually pushing her way past the suspicions of her male bosses and becoming a diver. Dexter's life hasn't changed much outwardly, but inwardly he is undergoing a shift. Meanwhile Eddie has disappeared, leaving his family with no clue as to why or what happened to him. About halfway through the book, I realised I was loving it. These days many books feel like work to me, so many pages to get through per day before I can move onto the next one, or a distraction from life (which is good and useful at times). With Manhattan Beach, Egan has created a world I wanted to revel in, even with its mysteries and tragedies. I savoured every page, every turn of events, every dive below the waters of Manhattan. A week later I am still thinking about the characters, wondering about the elliptical nature of Egan's writing (despite the page count!), and the stories that were left untold. For me, this is where this novel meets the Goon Squad, in its scope and fluidity and an obscure sense of kindness, despite the awful events that pepper some of the chapters. Egan's books fill me up while leaving me wanting more - exactly what a book should do, in my opinion.

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