Jennifer Egan – Manhattan Beach

Corsair Great Britain, 2017

This monumental piece of story-telling is Egan’s first work of historical fiction. Set in the Depression/World War 11 era on the New York docks, it is both a magnificent family saga and a compelling view of the times.

Clearly her research was comprehensive, and there is much that is factual in this work. However, the personal story of Anna is the substance of the novel and it is that which holds our undivided attention –  her quest to come to terms with the disappearance of her father, her determination to be an independent young single woman and to pursue a career as a diver, her dedication to her disabled sister, her sexual adventuring in the face of danger, her growing up.  There is also that clear and potent issue of privilege and money as a driver of American society.

Jennifer Egan writes so beautifully too – the clarity of her images is startling:

‘The fog had begun its creeping advance, a lone tendril leading the way from the Pacific. Foghorns lowed in the distance. They sounded deeper and louder then the foghorns Anna had heard all her life. But then, this fog was different, solid-looking enough to mold with your hands. It gushed in overnight, engulfing whole cities like amnesia.’

It’s important to be allowed to read finely crafted words like this.