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The Keep: A Novelby Jennifer Egan
"If, like your reviewer, you are inclined to regard traditional Gothic tropes as silly...you may be inclined to skip Jennifer Egan's The Keep....You would, however, be making a mistake....Expertly stacking and unstacking and, in the end, ingeniously discarding the Russian dolls of her protagonists' worlds, Egan, in clear and often witty prose, spins a tale of old-fashioned grip that argues for the liberating effects of fantasy and, not unrelatedly, for the enduring significance of the shudder." Joseph O'Neill, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
Synopses & Reviews
From National Book Award finalist Jennifer Egan, author of Look at Me ("Brilliantly unnerving...A haunting, sharp, splendidly articulate novel" The New York Times), a spellbinding work of literary suspense enacted in a chilling psychological landscape — a dazzling tour de force.
Two cousins, irreversibly damaged by a childhood prank whose devastating consequences changed both their lives, reunite twenty years later to renovate a medieval castle in Eastern Europe, a castle steeped in blood lore and family pride. Built over a secret system of caves and tunnels, the castle and its violent history invoke and subvert all the elements of a gothic past: twins, a pool, an old baroness, a fearsome tower. In an environment of extreme paranoia, cut off from the outside world, the men reenact the signal event of their youth, with even more catastrophic results. And as the full horror of their predicament unfolds, a prisoner, in jail for an unnamed crime, recounts an unforgettable story — a story about two cousins who unite to renovate a castle — that brings the crimes of the past and present into piercing relation.
Egan's relentlessly gripping page-turner plays with rich forms — ghost story, love story, gothic — and transfixing themes: the undertow of history, the fate of imagination in the cacophony of modern life, the uncanny likeness between communications technology and the supernatural. In a narrative that shifts seamlessly from an ancient European castle to a maximum security prison, Egan conjures a world from which escape is impossible and where the keep — the last stand, the final holdout, the place you run to when the walls are breached — is both everything worth protecting and the very thing that must be surrendered in order to survive.
A novel of fierce intelligence and velocity; a bravura performance from a writer of consummate skill and style.
"Claustrophobic paranoia, intentionally mediocre writing and a transparent gimmick dominate Egan's follow-up to Look at Me, centered on estranged cousins who reunite in Eastern Europe. Danny, a 36-year-old New York hipster who wears brown lipstick (and whose body can detect Wi-Fi availability), accepts his wealthy cousin Howard's invitation to come to Eastern Europe and help fix up the castle Howard plans on turning into a luxury Luddite hotel (check your cell at the door). In doing so, Danny can't help recalling the childhood prank he played on a young Howie that left the awkward adolescent nearly dead — or so writes Ray, the druggie inmate who's penning this novel-within-a-novel for his prison writing workshop. Subsequent chapters alternate between Danny's fantastical castle travails (it's home to a caustic baroness bent on preserving her family seat) and Ray's prison drama. There are funny asides and trappings (particularly digital technology) along the way, and the sendup of castle narratives generates some chuckles. But the connection between the two narratives, which Egan reveals in intentionally tawdry fashion, feels telegraphed from the first chapter, making for a frustrating read." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Atmospheric and tense, this is a mesmerizing story." Booklist
"An engrossing narrative told in prose that’s remarkably fresh and inventive." Library Journal
"Intelligent, challenging and exciting....The characters' emotions are so real, the author's insights so moving, that readers will be happy to be swept away." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"It's precisely Egan's talent for tapping into the American subconscious...that has established the author and journalist as a prescient literary voice." Vogue
"Egan is a very good writer, insightful and often funny, so fluid that you actually have the sensation of sinking into these lives." USA Today
"How [Egan] weaves the story of these four people together — and the unexpected links between them — is fascinating." Oregonian
"Overall, the improbability of The Keep is as bold as its realism is impassioned." Los Angeles Times
"[A] work both prodigiously entertaining and profoundly moving." New York Times
"[A] pleasure to read....Eagan's story unfolds in such sharp, realistically toned flashes that you get the information exactly the way her narrator wishes — without even knowing you were looking for it." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"While this ghost story wants to spook, instead it frustrates with a dual narrative arc that's unnecessary and pointless....
The author of Look at Me, a National Book Award finalist, returns with a brilliantly constructed work of intellectual suspense that takes on the lure of history, the cacophony of modern life, the power of the imagination, the meaning of escape, and the uncanny similarities between technology and the supernatural.
About the Author
Jennifer Egan is the author of Look at Me, which was a finalist for the 2001 National Book Award, The Invisible Circus, and the story collection Emerald City. Her nonfiction appears frequently in the New York Times Magazine. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.
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