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The Keep

by

The Keep Cover

 

Review-A-Day

"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

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"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.)

Review:

"Ray Dobbs is a prison inmate who feels so trapped that he can measure his days in steps. In jail for murder, he's a loner who spends most of his time watching the 'murky gray shapes' moving past his small, opaque cell window. One day, Ray decides to take a writing class, ostensibly to avoid his strange and scheming cellmate. But his teacher, Holly, tells him that writing isn't just something to pass... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"Atmospheric and tense, this is a mesmerizing story." Booklist

Review:

"An engrossing narrative told in prose that's remarkably fresh and inventive." Library Journal

Review:

"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)

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

Review:

"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

Review:

"How [Egan] weaves the story of these four people together — and the unexpected links between them — is fascinating." Oregonian

Review:

"Overall, the improbability of The Keep is as bold as its realism is impassioned." Los Angeles Times

Review:

"[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

Review:

"While this ghost story wants to spook, instead it frustrates with a dual narrative arc that's unnecessary and pointless....[W]hen Egan belatedly attempts to fuse this mess into a cohesive coda, she fails miserably. (Grade: D)" Entertainment Weekly

Synopsis:

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.

Synopsis:

Award-winning author Jennifer Egan brilliantly conjures a world from which escape is impossible and where the keep -the tower, the last stand -is both everything worth protecting and the very thing that must be surrendered in order to survive.

Two cousins, irreversibly damaged by a childhood prank, reunite twenty years later to renovate a medieval castle in Eastern Europe. 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 that seamlessly brings the crimes of the past and present into piercing relation.

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.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

Julia Williamson, June 18, 2011 (view all comments by Julia Williamson)
Jennifer Egan's ability to turn a story inside out and upside down and run it through a couple of rabbit holes, without so much as letting a little change fall out of the character's pockets, is astounding. I love novels in which unexpected things happen to people, and you get to see them in all of their complexity. And then there's the story, unusual and inventive in its own right. Very adept and entertaining.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
katknit, February 3, 2009 (view all comments by katknit)
s it opens, The Keep zeroes in on Danny, who is forced to get out of town - fast, because he's screwed up royally once again. These initial chapters appear to be the set up for a romance novel, until they segue into the heart of the story. Serendipitously for Danny, his cousin Howard has provided him with an invitation and a one way plane ticket to a country (unnamed) in Eastern Europe. He makes a comically unceremonious arrival at his cousin's creepy, ancient castle, and the story becomes a tale of guilty secrets. Along the way the reader learns that Danny's adventure is being told to us by Ray, a maximum security prisoner serving time for murder and taking a writing class.

With plenty of gothic detail and danger, relieved with absurd comedic passages, the suspense factor ratchets up. Has Howard lured Danny to his castle in order to exact revenge for a childhood incident? Why has he acquired this property at all? A subplot, involving Ray and his writing teacher, weaves in and out of Danny's adventure, raising questions about who is who and what is real. Egan has surrounded her main figures with a fun cast of quirky ancillary characters. The enigmatic conclusion, though unexpected, is strangely satisfying.

The strength of this novel is its originality, but there is an element of confusion that sometimes distracts from the story. Recommended for readers willing to accept a dose of ambiguity.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(4 of 6 readers found this comment helpful)
Marie, June 15, 2007 (view all comments by Marie)
How much you like this book will probably depend. It will depend upon how flexible your attitude is toward several genres is, how much you like books with a slightly unusual style, how you tolerate loose ends.

Personally, I probably fall in about the middle of the curve for all of the above, and thus enjoyed The Keep, but I can't say it was a really great book. Your mileage may differ.

It is certainly an interesting premise and Jennifer Egan is a graceful writer. I sailed through the book well enough, but at the end I said, Okay, that's that.

The Keep puts a nice spin on Gothic-style books, giving it a modern sensibility. There's enough mystery to keep readers who enjoy a little mystery interested, the characters are clearly enough drawn. It's certainly a cut above a lot of "summer reads."

I expect that most readers will like the book, some will love it and some, like me, will just say, Okay.
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(18 of 27 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781400079742
Author:
Egan, Jennifer
Publisher:
Anchor Books
Subject:
General
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
fiction;gothic;mystery;novel;prison;castles;suspense;contemporary fiction;europe;cousins;eastern europe;american;prisoners;metafiction;writing;horror;21st century;thriller;murder;literature;family
Subject:
fiction;gothic;mystery;novel;prison;castles;suspense;europe;contemporary fiction;eastern europe;cousins;american;prisoners;metafiction;writing;horror;21st century;murder;thriller;technology;literature;family
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20070731
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
7.92x5.28x.88 in. .62 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Keep New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$15.95 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Anchor Books - English 9781400079742 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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.)
"Review A Day" by , "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." (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
"Review" by , "Atmospheric and tense, this is a mesmerizing story."
"Review" by , "An engrossing narrative told in prose that's remarkably fresh and inventive."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "It's precisely Egan's talent for tapping into the American subconscious...that has established the author and journalist as a prescient literary voice."
"Review" by , "Egan is a very good writer, insightful and often funny, so fluid that you actually have the sensation of sinking into these lives."
"Review" by , "How [Egan] weaves the story of these four people together — and the unexpected links between them — is fascinating."
"Review" by , "Overall, the improbability of The Keep is as bold as its realism is impassioned."
"Review" by , "[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."
"Review" by , "While this ghost story wants to spook, instead it frustrates with a dual narrative arc that's unnecessary and pointless....[W]hen Egan belatedly attempts to fuse this mess into a cohesive coda, she fails miserably. (Grade: D)"
"Synopsis" by , 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.
"Synopsis" by , Award-winning author Jennifer Egan brilliantly conjures a world from which escape is impossible and where the keep -the tower, the last stand -is both everything worth protecting and the very thing that must be surrendered in order to survive.

Two cousins, irreversibly damaged by a childhood prank, reunite twenty years later to renovate a medieval castle in Eastern Europe. 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 that seamlessly brings the crimes of the past and present into piercing relation.

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