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Jennifer Egan – The Keep

November 28, 2012

127. The Keep by Jennifer Egan (2006)

Length: 272 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction

Started: 08 November 2012
Finished: 14 November 2012

Where did it come from? Bookmooch.
Why do I have it? My notes say I heard about it on LibraryThing, but I have no idea in what context. It’s been on my TBR pile for a while, though.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 22 January 2008. (see?)

There’s more to this old
castle than meets the eye… or
maybe there isn’t?

Summary: Danny has managed to become an adult without ever finding a place or a purpose for himself, although he’s quite fond of the lifestyle he’s cultivated. When he needs to escape from some of the more thuggish elements of that lifestyle, however, he takes his cousin Howard’s offer to join him in Europe, to help with the renovation of an old castle into a new hotel. Danny and Howard have had a troubled relationship since they were boys, but Howard seems to have forgotten the past and welcomes Danny with open arms. But is there something darker lurking beneath the surface of the seemingly innocent exterior?

Review: While I could see what Egan was attempting to do with this novel, and while objectively I could recognize that it was well crafted, this book just was not for me. I didn’t like the characters (I don’t know that you’re supposed to like them, but I much prefer books with at least one character likable enough to care about), I didn’t really care for the plot (either of them; Howard and Danny’s story is interspersed with a meta-narrative about a prisoner in a creative writing class), the style and prose wasn’t didn’t really work for me (whither the quotation marks? Why do so many authors seem to think that abandoning basic punctuation gives their story instant literary cred?), etc.

But, again, at the same time that I didn’t really care for it, I can definitely see that Egan did an excellent job crafting and structuring and telling her story. The book isn’t exactly what I’d call a thriller, but it is incredibly suspenseful almost from beginning to end; I spent a lot of the time biting my nails wondering what was real and what was fake and whether the whole thing was an elaborate set-up or just Danny’s paranoid ravings. Master-class level stuff, here, and the fact that I felt that suspense despite not really liking the protagonists was even more impressive. I wish I’d enjoyed this book more; there was nothing really wrong with it that I can pick out, we just never clicked.

Recommendation: So, “literary” prose stylings and grittiness and suspense novels are your thing, you’ll like it. It’s just… they aren’t mine. 3 out of 5 stars.

p. 48 What’s missing? What do they need? What’s the next step? And then I got it: imagination. We’ve lost the ability to make things up. We’ve farmed out that job to the entertainment industry, and we sit around and drool on ourselves while they do it for us.

p. 136 What are they giving you, the machines? Shadows, disembodied voices. Typed words and pictures if you’re online. That’s it, Danny. If you think you’re surrounded by people, you’re making them up.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Books for Breakfast, Jenny’s Books, The Written World, and more at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: The castle was falling apart, but at 2 a.m. under a useless moon, Danny couldn’t see this.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 28, 2012 4:04 pm

    Since you didn’t care for the plot or the characters, I think I’ll skip this one.

    • December 5, 2012 9:11 am

      Kathy – It seems like there are lots of folks who loved it; it just wasn’t up my alley.

  2. November 28, 2012 9:05 pm

    I haven’t reviewed The Keep (one of the many, many books that I intend to review but never do) but I was very impressed by it. I bought it after reading A Visit from the Goon Squad, which I thought was an amazing book. Do you have a system for keeping notes on how you heard about a book, BTW? I’ve been trying to decide how to do that. I think making a private note on LibraryThing would be good, but doubt I would always add the book right away.

    • December 5, 2012 9:13 am

      Laurie C – The private comment on LibraryThing is exactly how I do it, but it only works if it’s one specific thing that makes me want to read a book, and I add it to my wishlist right away. A lot of my notes are just like “I saw a bunch of people talking about it on Twitter and I was eventually convinced that it might be good?” :)

  3. November 28, 2012 9:37 pm

    I was not all that impressed with this book. As I recall, I found less in it to admire than you did here, which is one of several reasons why I was so impressed with Visit from the Goon Squad. Goon Squad was wonderful. And it had lots of characters that i genuinely liked.

    • December 5, 2012 9:16 am

      CBJames – That’s really reassuring, actually. I’ve got Goon Squad on my wishlist, and after reading this, was considering taking it off, but maybe I’ll still give it a try.

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