The Keep


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New Yorker Danny is running from something. A loner who cannot bear to be apart from his Wi-Fi connection, he is in need of refuge. His cousin Howie is an enigmatic and successful former drug addict who just happens to own a castle. As they turn the castle from crumbling ruin to luxury hotel, Howie and Danny must navigate their uncomfortable relationship. And the castle has some surprises of its own: a sinister baroness, a tragic accident in a fathomless pool, a treacherous labyrinth, and through all of this, a story ...

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Nov 10, 2009

This is a great multi-layered story about Danny, who finds himself in a bit of trouble, being reunited with his cousin whom he hasn't seen since a horrible life changing event as kids. The main story is set in an old dilapidated, abandoned castle. I love the way this author takes this atmospheric, gothic setting and peoples it with very atypical, unexpected characters, including an ancient baroness who has ensconced herself in the keep and is holding on for dear life. This book is full of great surprises. Among them is the moment when Egan gets around to describing Danny. It wasn't what I was picturing and I had to laugh. There were quite a few laughs here from Danny, who will go to extreme lengths to get a phone signal, and his encounter with the Baroness was purely hilarious. Then there is a sub-plot going on about a convict in a prison writing class. As I was reading this I wondered what this had to do with anything, and found it a little annoying. UNTIL it is revealed who the convict is and why he is in prison. This was great, and is a book I will read again. Don't pass this one up. It's not to be missed!


Mar 22, 2007


This novel has plenty of drive and ambition, and sets you up for a fabbo spooky read. The diction and verbage is modern day and fast paced, and involves a couple of chaps who pulled a disasterous prank in their early years, only to have those remains come back to haunt them. Jennifer Egan does a superb job weaving dialogue in a manner that is somewhat new in fiction, and she expertly weaves in and out of present and past with ease. When you read a couple of chapters that don't seem to make sense, you keep reading because of the impact those chapters and plot have on the rest of the story. She is able to bring together all these elements in scenes reminicent of one's dreams. Spookier still, she describes scenes in detail to the degree you can actually picture what is taking place. I thought the book was wonderful and except for a tad too much vulgarity for the sake of overkill, (but this seems how we are as speakers of the language, today) it rocks strong and loud. Think about a couple of things when you read this: first, read it as if you are wanting to be in a sort of hypnotic dreamscape, and second, try to recall how you were as a child and how you experienced your world and all its wonder and couldn't explain it to adults. Those suggestions will thrill you as you go along for a ride to Spookaloo-ville!


Feb 16, 2007

A creepy keeper

I was eager to read The Keep, Jennifer Egan's latest novel, which is largely set in an Eastern European castle. It seemed like quite a change from her prior novel, Look at Me, which came out just prior to 9/11 and became retroactively somewhat controversial due to its content. I really enjoyed that book, and what really stood out was the way Egan weaved together very distinct story lines, using language and tone beautifully.

While the story lines and settings are quite different in The Keep, it's not as much of a leap as it might seem at an initial glance. For example, while the primary setting is a castle, this is a modern story. This is immediately made clear by the fact that the first character we meet, Danny, the presumptive protagonist, is lugging a satellite dish into the collapsed castle, for fear he won't be able to connect to his world back in New York. The castle itself lies in ruins, and Danny has arrived to help out his cousin Howie, who is renovating the castle into a hotel of sorts. The two share a dark past, full of secrets and shame, and this is referenced in an instantly compelling way.

There's also another story running through the novel, about a prisoner taking a writing class. Egan weaves these stories together in a perfect manner - that is, when they seem wholly distinct, they are both compelling. When they begin to converge in some ways, it's not only plausible, but extremely rewarding.

To be clear, The Keep has justly been referred to as a "gothic novel,"and deserves that label because of its tone and story lines. There are mysterious characters lurking in parts of the castle that seem straight out of a Bram Stoker novel. Danny and his cousin share a hidden past, but theirs is far from the only secret being kept. Almost every character in this book is haunted in some way, and Egan once again commands the language beautifully to tell her story. It's an incredibly entertaining book, not just in the clever structure of the narrative, but the story itself. This inventive and engaging novel is definitely recommended.

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