Jennifer Egan – The Keep
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.
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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