Jennifer Egan

The Keep

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From National Book Award finalist Egan comes a spellbinding work of literary suspense enacted in a chilling psychological landscape.

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From National Book Award finalist Egan comes a spellbinding work of literary suspense enacted in a chilling psychological landscape.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.

Specifications

Publisher
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Book Format
Paperback
Original Languages
English
Number of Pages
272
Author
Jennifer Egan
ISBN-13
9781400079742
Publication Date
July, 2007
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
7.98 x 5.21 x 0.82 Inches
ISBN-10
1400079748

Customer Reviews

Average Rating:(3.5)out of 5 stars
5 stars
11
4 stars
20
3 stars
11
2 stars
5
1 star
5
Most helpful positive review
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars
One of the most unusua...
One of the most unusual, riveting books I've ever read. It falls into the most-hallowed category - a book, which, as I realize I am getting close to the end, actually causes me sadness and feelings of "separation anxiety", and a book, which as soon I've finished, I simply wish to start again.
Most helpful negative review
Average Rating:(1.0)out of 5 stars
With almost 100 review...
With almost 100 reviews on this site, and so much publicity, it's discouraging to add yet another. (The chances of this being read are small, and the chances of it swaying any readers are even smaller.) But I am impelled by a kind of irritation. It's a familiar irritation: I gave several days to this book, and it was a waste, and I want to write to someone! Of all the books I have read this year, this is the worst. I agree almost entirely with Simone Oltolina, whose review is currently (as I write this) posted as "most helpful unfavorable review." But I disagree with the reason she says "The Keep" doesn't work. It's not because there are narrative threads left dangling. The problem is more pervasive. It is that Egan can't fill out scenes: she can't describe characters, and she can't even describe settings. The dank pools, castle keeps, dungeons, and forests here have been conjured so intensely, by so many people -- from Novalis to King! -- that it just won't do to have them sketched so cursorily, so feebly, with so little visual sense. I propose this test: take any scene in the novel, and try to picture it. What you'll get is only a Hollywood set, and the details of that set will be from the movies you have seen, not even from the novel. The book is threadbare, and Egan is not a novelist: a least not the kind she hopes, in this book, to be. I am sorry to be so poisonous, but that is what happens when I give my time to a book that is so poor. Maybe amazon's reviews serve a cathartic purpose. I want to put this one behind me, and maybe warn someone else at the same time.
Most helpful positive review
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars
One of the most unusua...
One of the most unusual, riveting books I've ever read. It falls into the most-hallowed category - a book, which, as I realize I am getting close to the end, actually causes me sadness and feelings of "separation anxiety", and a book, which as soon I've finished, I simply wish to start again.
Most helpful negative review
Average Rating:(1.0)out of 5 stars
With almost 100 review...
With almost 100 reviews on this site, and so much publicity, it's discouraging to add yet another. (The chances of this being read are small, and the chances of it swaying any readers are even smaller.) But I am impelled by a kind of irritation. It's a familiar irritation: I gave several days to this book, and it was a waste, and I want to write to someone! Of all the books I have read this year, this is the worst. I agree almost entirely with Simone Oltolina, whose review is currently (as I write this) posted as "most helpful unfavorable review." But I disagree with the reason she says "The Keep" doesn't work. It's not because there are narrative threads left dangling. The problem is more pervasive. It is that Egan can't fill out scenes: she can't describe characters, and she can't even describe settings. The dank pools, castle keeps, dungeons, and forests here have been conjured so intensely, by so many people -- from Novalis to King! -- that it just won't do to have them sketched so cursorily, so feebly, with so little visual sense. I propose this test: take any scene in the novel, and try to picture it. What you'll get is only a Hollywood set, and the details of that set will be from the movies you have seen, not even from the novel. The book is threadbare, and Egan is not a novelist: a least not the kind she hopes, in this book, to be. I am sorry to be so poisonous, but that is what happens when I give my time to a book that is so poor. Maybe amazon's reviews serve a cathartic purpose. I want to put this one behind me, and maybe warn someone else at the same time.
One of the most unusual, riveting books I've ever read. It falls into the most-hallowed category - a book, which, as I realize I am getting close to the end, actually causes me sadness and feelings of "separation anxiety", and a book, which as soon I've finished, I simply wish to start again.
With almost 100 reviews on this site, and so much publicity, it's discouraging to add yet another. (The chances of this being read are small, and the chances of it swaying any readers are even smaller.) But I am impelled by a kind of irritation. It's a familiar irritation: I gave several days to this book, and it was a waste, and I want to write to someone! Of all the books I have read this year, this is the worst. I agree almost entirely with Simone Oltolina, whose review is currently (as I write this) posted as "most helpful unfavorable review." But I disagree with the reason she says "The Keep" doesn't work. It's not because there are narrative threads left dangling. The problem is more pervasive. It is that Egan can't fill out scenes: she can't describe characters, and she can't even describe settings. The dank pools, castle keeps, dungeons, and forests here have been conjured so intensely, by so many people -- from Novalis to King! -- that it just won't do to have them sketched so cursorily, so feebly, with so little visual sense. I propose this test: take any scene in the novel, and try to picture it. What you'll get is only a Hollywood set, and the details of that set will be from the movies you have seen, not even from the novel. The book is threadbare, and Egan is not a novelist: a least not the kind she hopes, in this book, to be. I am sorry to be so poisonous, but that is what happens when I give my time to a book that is so poor. Maybe amazon's reviews serve a cathartic purpose. I want to put this one behind me, and maybe warn someone else at the same time.

Frequent mentions

1-5 of 52 reviews
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

One of the most unusua...

One of the most unusual, riveting books I've ever read. It falls into the most-hallowed category - a book, which, as I realize I am getting close to the end, actually causes me sadness and feelings of "separation anxiety", and a book, which as soon I've finished, I simply wish to start again.

Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

Danny visits his cousi...

Danny visits his cousin, Howie, in Germany to help him with the castle he is renovating. Danny hasn't seen Howie in twenty years, not since he and another cousin left Howie to almost die in bad childhood prank. Now Howie is rich, married, and very successful. Punkster Danny has been living in NYC, bouncing from job to job and is now on the run from some mob guys. Ray is the guy writing this story for a creative writing class in prison. His story alternates between that of Danny and Howie's. The Keep is deliciously Gothic and creepy. But it is not your usual story and I almost didn't read it because reviews have been so mixed. I was given a push by a fellow tweeter and I am so glad I did. Danny is such a great character, paranoid that Howie wants payback for the horrific childhood prank, obsessed with being connected to the outside world, so much so that he brings his own satellite dish to the castle and unfortunately loses it, rendering his laptop and satellite phone useless. And did I mention the Baroness? She comes with the castle, refusing to leave the Keep which is the tower part of the castle, inaccessible if the walls are breached. Howie is a control freak millionaire, who wants to turn the castle into a type of spa that shuns the outside world. Then there is Mick, Howie's number two man, who resents Danny's presence. Egan is such a great write and I was so drawn into this story, moving between the castle and prison, not sure what is reality and what is fiction. This is another book I stayed up late reading to try and finish. I really recommend giving this book a try. It would have made my favorites of 2010 but there were so many great books to choose from. So it may not be on the list, but I loved it! my rating 5/5

Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

I picked up Jennifer E...

I picked up Jennifer Egan's The Keep because, well, Halloween, and for its premise: three different stories told by three different narrators that intertwine for an unusual twist on the gothic tale. The Keep opens with a seemingly traditional gothic tale. Danny arrives at the doorstep of a castle somewhere in central Europe after a maddeningly long and confusing journey. He's tired and disoriented and before him, in all its glory, is a mysterious castle, heavy with atmosphere and history, something out of a fevered dream. Danny has a history of his own too, as it seems all protagonists do in gothic tales. He's an ex-con who bounced around a bit, and has recently gotten into the kind of trouble that involves busted kneecaps (he walks with a limp when we first meet him). When his cousin Howard calls him out of the blue and invites him to help with a castle renovation, dangling a one-way ticket, Danny is quickly on board. Serendipity or so it seems. Now cue the organ music to highlight that something is amiss. We learn that the relationship between Danny and Howard isn't so straightforward. A horrible childhood incident (recounted in flashback) has marred their lives forever, and you begin to suspect that Howard's motives might be more sinister. As the days go by, Danny's perceptions of the castle begin to darken. Egan gets a little heavy-handed with the foreshadowing when Howard reveals his renovation plans for the castle: to turn it into a new-age retreat for people to get in touch with their inner imaginations. Howard argues that TV and movies and other forms of passive entertainment have impoverished the mind, that we don't know how to tell ourselves stories anymore. Danny balks at this and then starts to become increasingly paranoid about his cousin's true intentions. Perhaps his cousin has brought him here to enact some revenge fantasy on him as payback for that long-ago but never forgotten, cruel childhood prank. Egan's brilliant, slow poison starts to take effect, and we see Danny start to unravel. The fourth wall breaks early on with this line, so watch for it: "You? Who the hell are you? That's what someone must be saying right about now. Well, I'm the guy talking. Someone's always doing the talking, just a lot of times you don't know who it is or what their reasons are. My teacher, Holly, told me that." The line comes like a slap right in the middle of Danny's narrative. The trespassing authorial presence seems to engage us directly, and suddenly the gothic creepiness dissolves into something more ominous. Who is telling this story? Cue the second story. We find out that the first story is an account being written by another character, Ray. Ray is a convict in a max security prison doing time for murder. He's writing about Danny and Howard as part of a creative writing course. He claims the story is true, told to him by a friend, and yet it's obvious that Ray is more involved in the story's events than he's letting on. In this narrative, Egan mostly shows Ray growing more and more infatuated with this writing teacher, Holly. In the third story, Holly becomes our narrator, and we learn how she's become emotionally involved with Ray and how the castle story about Danny and Howard connects them somehow. The connection is more emotional and psychological at first, and later becomes something much more real. Or so it seems. I can't make up my mind about The Keep. On one hand, it's a mind-bending Mobius strip of a book; on the other, it feels gimmicky, and besides, other writers have done it and done it better. But I suspect there's something there meant to fool us, to make us dismiss it too quickly. (To show our flawed, impoverished imaginations perhaps?) On the whole, the book is a story about childhood demons that never quite go away, psychological traumas that come back and become real-world dangers. To her credit, Egan creates some genuinely horrifying moments. The scenes of Danny walking around the castle grounds; the dark pool of sludge he ponders; the keep with its strange occupant, a malevolent baroness who refuses to vacate the castle; the small town whose streets become a maze that Danny can't navigate; the claustrophobia-inducing underground tunnels-all nightmarish. But the way the book is structured-with its second story intruding early on-Egan robs the book of some of the psychological complexity it could be building up, and we never truly have the gothic aspects to ourselves. We're always made aware that it's *just* a story. Though I now wonder...could this all be some kind of larger authorial trick? I started to suspect this by the time I got to the Holly story. OK, I thought, here's a book that has three strands woven together in a tight braid. There are twists and turns that are clever, though mostly obvious, and then Egan drops the narrative magic altogether by the time we get to Holly's story. At this point, I was feeling cheated, like the complex layers of narrative had all been too contrived and forced. As I started thinking more about Holly, though, I began to develop other ideas. Egan is being very, very deliberate with Holly. Holly's narrative is supposed to be the 'real' part of the story, where all illusions drop away, where the veil is finally lifted. But I suspect that Egan is actually showing us the real 'gothic' story with Holly. *SPOILER AHEAD: In the last few pages, Holly decides to drop everything and visit the castle from Ray's story. She gets on a plane and make the journey, exactly as Danny does in the first story. I couldn't help but think she was entering her own fever dream. In fact, she desperately and irrationally hopes that Ray might be there so they can reunite. In one section, Holly even assumes the character of the baroness locked away in the keep. The book finally ends with a surreal scene with Holly stepping into the pool of imagination.* The Keep is much more complex for its own good, much like the castle, and maybe even our imaginations, with all its impenetrable walls, unfathomable depths, and dark passageways.

Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

My first thought: if y...

My first thought: if you don't want a challenging read, don't pick up this book. It is not for mainstream reading; you seriously have to consider what it is that you have in front of you. And when you're finished, you'll STILL be thinking about it, and have a lot of questions. I originally picked up this book because of the cover blurb saying something about gothic horror, supernatural, ghosts, tragedy, etc etc...but it turns out to be something incredibly different. The author has provided us with a stunning work of metafiction here, with the constant themes including imprisonment, the relationship between knowledge & power, what is reality and what is not, and ultimately, the concept of escape. With each major character, however, the personal stories that reflect these themes change in respect to the individual, but work together to form a whole. I must say that the characters were well drawn and I got totally lost inside of this book once I started it, even though it was 100% not what I expected. The Keep would make a great book group novel because it would launch many avenues of discussion. I won't go into plot here because it's too intricate & I don't want to give away anything. Suffice it to say that I truly enjoyed it and I'm still thinking about it after having finished it last night. Recommended for readers of metafiction, for those who like being challenged as they read, and for those who want something way above the average.

Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

This was a strange boo...

This was a strange book. Part near ghost story, part descent into paranoia, part prison novel. At the center is the story of cousins Danny and Howard. In their childhood, there was an incident that caused Howard to change. Howard has bought a castle somewhere in the Alps (even Howie isn't quite sure what country it is), but the baroness whose family lived in and owned the castle for generations will not allow anyone into the keep. Danny is brought in by Howie, a timely resuce as something or other happened in his last job that has him fleeing New York. Danny can't figure out why Howie would want him there and beings to get a bit paranoid after discovering twins who drowned in the castle years ago. As Danny starts to unravel, we learn of another narrative, this one told by a prison inmate. I did suspect how the two were connected. I was a little disappointed in certain things just being left hanging though.


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