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2018 TOB Shortlist Books > Manhattan Beach

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message 1: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1737 comments so let's talk about it....


message 2: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 83 comments I'm firmly in the "Goon Squad-is-genius" camp so it's very possible I'm biased, but I am really impressed so far with this book (about 70% done). It just feels so old school in so many ways... from the period syntax and vernacular to the use of a true third person omniscient narrator. I don't remember many books in recent years where the author switches the pov character from one paragraph to the next - usually if the pov switches at all it happens at chapter breaks. Just struck me as a unique approach.

And Egan is so skilled at the character stuff. She makes things seem easy and simple in this book but I think that's her writing prowess in evidence. I hope Egan sticks the landing on this.


message 3: by Amy (last edited Jan 03, 2018 08:29PM) (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1737 comments I was firmly in the Goon-Squad-is-a-mess-with-no-relatable-characters camp but this group has softened me on it over the past few years (I came to TOB (and AVFTGS) after that tourney). My primary gripe was the lack of continuity - I didn’t approach it as connected stories and it pissed me off. Now that she’s following a more linear arc, I’m free to enjoy her character sketches and fully realized backdrops. If I like the 2nd half as much as the first, I’ll give Goon Squad a solid second try.


message 4: by Jason (last edited Jan 03, 2018 08:31PM) (new)

Jason Perdue | 630 comments Team Goon Squad-is-genius.

I said this over in the longlist thread, but I think it still holds.

It felt like an homage to the tropes and clichés popular in the period in which its set. It's very conscious of its storytelling. I'd call it metafiction. (view spoiler)


message 5: by Ruthiella (new)

Ruthiella | 366 comments I am not a big fan of short stories and while I liked Goon Squad, I didn't love it.

The first half of the book IS really good. If only Egan had taken the 1000+ pages she needed to tell the rest of the story to fit all her research. I think her writing is great in this book (and in Good Squad too) but I agree with Jason above, there is just too much crammed in the novel to make it truly satisfying for me.

I have a real soft spot for historical novels and I don't typically even mind info dumps. I enjoyed reading Manhattan Beach because it was well written and had great characters but I wish she had been less ambitious in her plot and only told, say the story of Anna and her sister.


message 6: by Dianah (new)

Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments I love Jennifer Egan, and this would be a favorite of mine if it didn't have giant plot holes in it. The writing is gorgeous, the history seems accurate, the female viewpoint is wonderful, I liked all the characters (even the awful ones), but the plot was just too ridiculous. I gave it 2 stars. I'll be really interested to see how the conversations go on this one.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 642 comments I was a huge fan of Goon Squad but this book has nothing of what I loved in GS. I did bail on this one. I am slightly interested in the history of the era (in fact have a friend whose grandfather worked in the shipyards) but not enough, clearly.

I just didn't think she picked the interesting story to tell. There is this one moment where the sister starts hearing things and I thought oh now this is something I'm interested in. (view spoiler)


message 8: by Holly (new)

Holly (moonshiner) I five-starred Goon Squad and was psyched for this, so I was very disappointed. Amy, the lack of continuity is what bothered me about the thing as well. Perhaps she should have broken this novel up into Goon Squad-esque vignettes!


message 9: by Amanda (new)

Amanda (tnbooklover) I really disliked Goon Squad but a few people have tried to convince me I should give it another go. Sir far I have resisted.

This one I’m feeling a bit meh about. I’m on page 118 and had it not made the shortlist it was headed for the DNF shelf. I’m trying to be open minded about it and see if I can enjoy the rest of it.


message 10: by Jen (new)

Jen (jeninseattle) | 1 comments I was a bit disappointed with MB. I've flip flopped after reading it and then hearing a couple of interviews with Egan. I felt like the character's stories were just a bit too disjointed for me. They linked, but I guess not closely enough for my taste. It sounds like Egan intended this; that she was trying to paint some pictures that bump up against each other but never really interweave, so okay, but it wasn't my favorite.

Egan's research of the time and place, and the diving and shipping in MB is amazing. I really enjoyed that aspect. I was certainly transported to New York during WWII.


message 11: by Neva (new)

Neva (neva101) | 1 comments I tried to get into this one but could not. So, it’s hibernating. I was listening to it, which is always a gamble. Reflecting on this, I realize the problem for me was the reader’s voice. So, perhaps old school reading will fix the problem.


message 12: by Alison (new)

Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 463 comments I didn't love MB. It felt to me too much like three stories crammed together, so that none felt fully realized. Maybe if I'd been charmed by the sleazy mob boss wannabe I might have liked it more.

There's no doubt Egan can write historical fiction, but this one didn't shine for me. I'd like to read some of her other historical novels, but I don't see this one as particularly outstanding.


message 13: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 07, 2018 10:07PM) (new)

Given that I'm on Team Goon Squad - is - a - mess, and I want back the hours I wasted on it, I've been reluctant to take on Manhattan Beach. I thought if it made the shortlist, I would give it a go. However, this thread is not inspiring me to give it my time.


message 14: by Gwendolyn (new)

Gwendolyn | 186 comments I’m a dissenting voice. I actually really enjoyed Manhattan Beach and found it to be filled with interesting and credible (I.e. not perfect) characters. Sure, there were at least two novels wrapped up in this, and there are some loose ends, but the themes were nicely carried throughout the different strands without being too obvious. I’m not generally one to go for straightforward historical fiction, but this one was rich enough (and the writing was good enough) to impress me. (I’m also in the Goon-Squad-Is-A-Mess Camp...didn’t care for that one much).


message 15: by Kelly (new)

Kelly | 28 comments I quite liked this one, although unexpected for Egan. If I'd read it blind I probably would have guessed Jane Smiley. But the writing was beautiful, and each setting so precisely rendered, that it really captured me.

I could have done without the pregnancy plot line - that was a bit too predictable, especially the go to the clinic and back out at the very last second part - but overall I'd pass it through a few rounds, depending on the competition.


message 16: by Topher (new)

Topher | 105 comments This one was a real "be careful what you wish for" book for me. I loved Goon Squad, but at the time I thought it could have been improved by toning down some of the "tricks" that she used.

Unfortunately, it seems like she took this advice...and this book was just too bland for me. Some really beautiful passages, and a lot of obvious research, but there wasn't anything to love about it.


message 17: by Drew (new)

Drew (drewlynn) | 425 comments Amanda wrote: "I really disliked Goon Squad but a few people have tried to convince me I should give it another go. Sir far I have resisted.

This one I’m feeling a bit meh about. I’m on page 118 and had it not ..."


I also disliked Goon Squad when I read it for the TOB but gave it another try for my IRL book group. I actually really liked it the second time but everyone else hated it! That blew my theory that it would only appeal to younger people. (I was the oldest one in the group.)


message 18: by Gwendolyn (new)

Gwendolyn | 186 comments Kelly, Good call on the comparison to Jane Smiley...I get that.

Drew, so there’s hope for Goon Squad after all? I didn’t like it at all on my first read. Maybe I need to go back?


message 19: by Drew (new)

Drew (drewlynn) | 425 comments Gwendolyn wrote: "Kelly, Good call on the comparison to Jane Smiley...I get that.

Drew, so there’s hope for Goon Squad after all? I didn’t like it at all on my first read. Maybe I need to go back?"


There's always the chance that you'll be throwing good money after bad, so to speak.


message 20: by Eric (new)

Eric | 90 comments I'm liking the book, but I'm finding Dexter's ambition to go legit hard to believe. I think once you cavalierly have people killed, you don't go back. Unless I find out sometimes unexpected happened to the would-be blackmailer.


message 21: by Eric (new)

Eric | 90 comments It strikes me that this book is a noir potboiler rather than a literary novel. If it were one of Max Allan Collins' historical crime books (which it reads like--and there's nothing wrong with that!), I'd probably give it a higher rating (maybe four or five). But the hype on it is it's the latest masterpiece from an award winning literary writer.

So three or four.


message 22: by Drew (last edited Feb 01, 2018 09:37AM) (new)

Drew (drewlynn) | 425 comments Eric wrote: "It strikes me that this book is a noir potboiler rather than a literary novel. If it were one of Max Allan Collins' historical crime books (which it reads like--and there's nothing wrong with that!..."

I totally agree with you, Eric, on both comments.


message 23: by Ellen (new)

Ellen H | 784 comments I liked it, and to me it read like Dennis Lehane, specifically The Given Day. The person I know who loved it the most is a huge Dennis Lehane fan, which figures.


message 24: by Michael (new)

Michael (grebmar) It seems like we're all on the meh bandwagon here. I thought the first third was brilliant until Lydia died, and then the plot became simply a vehicle for Egan to do some grandstanding. The dive for Anna's father seemed entirely gratuitous - an amazing scene but why did she have to dive for the body, and why did Dex insist on going with her? She could have just taken his word for it that Eddie was dead and the novel would have been exactly the same but 50 pages shorter. It didn't even set up any suspense, since we all knew Eddie was alive anyway. Ditto with the long scenes of Eddie on the lifeboat. A harrowing journey, but in the end: they floated for 21 days and lived. And then when everyone's in San Francisco with the happy reunion and everyone is self-realized in stardust and tinsel... All in all a brilliant meh.


message 25: by Alison (new)

Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 463 comments Michael wrote: "...but why did she have to dive for the body, and why did Dex insist on going with her?..."

That scene enraged me. The book was in the process of losing me (why would she jeopardize her job and why would her friends risk losing theirs for this stupid guy?) and when Dex, who had never dived and knew nothing, went down to join her I was done. Any one with the most cursory knowledge of diving would know this is stupid, stupid, stupid and no one would have let him. He was an idiot. He should have drowned then and there.

Yeah, I have opinions on this.


message 26: by Dianah (new)

Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments Michael wrote: "...but why did she have to dive for the body, and why did Dex insist on going with her?..."

And, why the hell did she *want* to dive for her father's rotting corpse??? Are you kidding me? Who'd be up for that?


message 27: by Ruthiella (new)

Ruthiella | 366 comments Michael wrote: "All in all a brilliant meh.." That sums it up for me. I thought the writing was fantastic but the story (or the three stories really) were lacking. Honestly, I feel she wrote around her research which is why the plotting is so weak.


message 28: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 83 comments Alison wrote: "Michael wrote: "...but why did she have to dive for the body, and why did Dex insist on going with her?..."

That scene enraged me. The book was in the process of losing me (why would she jeopardiz..."


I totally understand this sentiment. The scene struck me as a strange choice as well in terms of plot and character motivation, particularly for Dexter.

But a few things saved it for me:
1) Anna's fierce bravery in allowing herself to be led to her father's burial site by someone she suspects was involved in his disappearance. She has to know the truth of her father's fate, having never wanted to believe that he could have left his family without so much as a letter all those years ago, and she has to try to get this truth firsthand. I loved this.
2) I think Dexter's attitudes were already changing by this point in the story. He didn't want to be involved with dumping bodies in the harbor any longer. He may or may not have wanted to admit it to himself, but part of him wanted to go straight, so to speak, and be fully in the real world instead of the shadow world. That's why he agreed to show Anna to the site, and why he attempted to dive.
3) The writing itself is gorgeous - just a knockout scene from a technical standpoint. The page where Dexter is shooting to the surface was particularly evocative.
For these reasons I was able to suspend disbelief just a bit and forgive a short cut or two with the plotting.


message 29: by Dianah (new)

Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments Why does Dexter make it a point to make sure that the Captain knows where Eddie's body is? At that point in the book, Anna doesn't even exist for him as a love interest, so what is the point? Also, who would sleep with the person they thought killed their father? It's just too far out of the realm of normal behavior.


message 30: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 83 comments Dianah wrote: "Why does Dexter make it a point to make sure that the Captain knows where Eddie's body is? At that point in the book, Anna doesn't even exist for him as a love interest, so what is the point? Also,..."

To me, Dexter remembered the generalities of where Eddie ended up, but not the exact spot for whatever reason. Perhaps I need to reread that scene for clues.

As for Anna, I think her motives for her relationship with Dexter help make her such a complex and interesting character. Some of it was animal attraction. But a bigger factor may have been her conflicted feelings about her father. Of course she loved him, but she also carried a great deal of anger and pain from his disappearance. An example was her reaction when she finally received a message from Eddie in the mail. It wasn't merely joy at his being alive after all - it was also anger that Lydia died without their father being present in their lives.

I had a hard time getting myself to go along with the whole Dexter/Anna angle at first too, but in the end Egan got me there. I understand why many are saying it didn't work for them though.


message 31: by Ruthiella (last edited Feb 12, 2018 07:06PM) (new)

Ruthiella | 366 comments The Literary Disco Podcast just posted a discussion about this book . Julia and Tod like it but have reservations, but Rider has some interesting ideas about Egan's motivations for writing it. If any one is interested: http://www.literarydisco.com/2018/02/...


message 32: by Adam (new)

Adam (adamstephenhall) I read the Dexter dive scene two times, and I still can’t understand what the epiphany he has is as he floats to the top. To go clean? I thought he had already decided this.


message 33: by Ezzy (new)

Ezzy | 31 comments As a diver, everything about Dexter's dive scene bothers me.


message 34: by Adam (last edited Feb 20, 2018 08:12AM) (new)

Adam (adamstephenhall) Ezzy wrote: "As a diver, everything about Dexter's dive scene bothers me."

I am not a diver, and yet that was hard for me to take as well.

But as someone who always thinks the book is smarter than he is, the fact that the epiphany Dexter has while rising is never clarified in a way I could understand bothered me as much if not more so.


message 35: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Tittle | 49 comments I'm really liking this so far. About half way through. It's so different from her other books, but one of Egan's talents seems to be writing in a lot of different styles, and from a lot of different perspectives. This feels bigger, looser, and more narratively driven than her previous stuff and so far, so good!


message 36: by Gwendolyn (new)

Gwendolyn | 186 comments Sarah, glad you’re liking this one. I loved it too. A departure for Egan definitely, but a successful one, in my opinion.


message 37: by Peggy (last edited Feb 21, 2018 10:56PM) (new)

Peggy | 196 comments Adam wrote: "I read the Dexter dive scene two times, and I still can’t understand what the epiphany he has is as he floats to the top. To go clean? I thought he had already decided this."

Okay, maybe I misread, but I thought this got resolved when he was dying from the gunshots--he remembered there were no bones, no shoes, no nothing from Eddie's "body" and he remembered on his trip up in the diving suit realizing that Eddie must not have died--that was his epiphany (I think), that Eddie was alive. And I think there's a moment where he hopes/believes he will get out of his situation alive, like Eddie did. And then he dies and never gets to tell Anna about her dad, which I presume he would have done.
Of course all of this becomes irrelevant when Eddie writes her a letter and they are reunited, so...Dexter's epiphany is pretty meaningless.
Ugh...this book frustrated me sooooo much. Such good writing wasted (mostly) on such a slow, static story. Loved Goon Squad but totally a meh on this one.


message 38: by Eric (new)

Eric | 90 comments Peggy wrote: "realizing that Eddie must not have died--that was his epiphany."

Yes.


message 39: by Adam (new)

Adam (adamstephenhall) Peggy wrote: "Adam wrote: "I read the Dexter dive scene two times, and I still can’t understand what the epiphany he has is as he floats to the top. To go clean? I thought he had already decided this."

Okay, ma..."


Thank you! I totally missed it, though in fairness, I attribute that as much to the late hour as anything Egan did or did not do.


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