Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Keep (Jennifer Egan)

I was drawn to this novel by the cover and description...a suspenseful, psychological, gothic atmosphere...exactly my cup of tea. When I hear words like castle, baroness, and twins, I know that I will be taken for a ride. When this book was good, it was very, very good, and when it was bad, well, you know the rest.

The Keep intersects two stories, one set in a castle in Europe, the other in a prison. The castle was recently bought by Howie, who wants to turn it in to a hotel. He asks his cousin, Danny, to come to Europe to help him with the renovation. The cousins share a long-lost secret from the past, and it does not take Egan very long to share this secret with her readers. Danny immediately knows that something is not quite right, especially when he meets the old baroness, who refuses to leave the "keep" of the castle. The jail story is not as interesting as the castle story, but they do eventually intersect in a creative way.

It is interesting that The Keep tells dual stories, because I felt different ways reading it. It tells its stories very succinctly, but then has abstract, open-ended parts, where the reader has no idea what just happened. I felt the same way about The Glister as I do about The Keep. If I am going to spend a few days of my life reading a novel, I want to have definitive answers about what happens to the characters. Instead, I was left scratching my head.