BOOK REVIEW: The Keep, by Jennifer Egan

Posted 24 May, 2012 by Kristilyn in Book Club Reads, Literature & Fiction / 0 Comments

Released: July 10, 2007 (Anchor Canada)
Source: Library (Book Club Pick)
Buy Now From: Amazon

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.

My Thoughts

Jennifer Egan’s book, The Keep, is an intriguing story-within-a-story-within-a-story; it’s not something that I would normally pick up (as of late, I seem to be attached to Children’s and Young Adult Literature), but was happy for a change when my book club decided to read it. I was partway through Egan’s book, Look At Me, when I started to read this one. While Look At Me is a slower-paced read, taking days to get through, The Keep only took an afternoon. It was a quick, enjoyable, interesting read that I didn’t expect to like, but was quite surprised to find out that I actually did.

I don’t want to give anything away about the novel (I already fear I’ve said too much), but I will say that The Keep provides a pleasant escape and leaves the reader thinking long after they have finished the book. You will ask yourself which parts of the book is real, which characters are real? Who is the main storyteller? Of course, that answer will differ from reader to reader. The writing style varies as the book goes along–though there are a few inconsistencies that didn’t make too much sense to me (SPOILER: When the writing class gets together, I would expect more formal writing, as in most novels, with quotation marks and whatnot, as  opposed to the more informal writing of the initial main character. I think that would have shown more of a difference between the two tales. END SPOILER).

The end of the book may seem a little contrived, but it had the potential to be even more so. I felt that it was wrapped up just a bit too neatly and the last part of the book seemed a bit rushed. The entire novel is broken up into three parts and I found that the first two were the best crafted: the third part of the book didn’t really match the flow, but could have (see spoiler above) if the writing style was changed slightly in the first and second parts of the novel. There were entertaining parts throughout and other sections I laughed out loud to, while there was the odd bit that seemed to not have a place in the novel and I wonder why it was there: could it have been due to the amateur writing of our main character?

Ultimately, Jennifer Egan is a wonderful writer, laying out her stories with plenty of depth and description. I found her characters easy to visualize and thought they each had their own voice and place in the novel. If you’re looking for something that will help you escape and pass the time, or for a book that will keep you intrigued to the very end, The Keep is one you should be reading.

Read More Reviews of This Book

Janelle’s review –> Eclectic Closet
Deb’s review –> Book Magic
Elizabeth’s review –> Cville Words

Read More of My Jennifer Egan Reviews

© 2012, Reading In Winter. All rights reserved.


About Kristilyn

Kristilyn is a Canadian book blogger, music listener & creator, proud mama, and general lover of life. Her necessities include fuzzy socks, a library full of good books, a fully charged Kindle, copious amounts of tea, and chocolate. Swoon-worthy book boys are also welcome.


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