The Keep by Jennifer Egan – Book Review

This week I will be reviewing:

The Keep by Jennifer Egan

This modern take on a gothic novel is set in an ancient castle in the wilds of Eastern Europe.  Danny, a 36 year old New Yorker, travels there to help his cousin with the renovations and turn the castle into a luxurious hotel.  But things soon take a dark turn and Danny begins to question everything he held true…

When I first begab reading this book the first thing that I noticed was that instead of using speech marks Jennifer Egan decided to write the dialogue in a similar way to a script, where it is simply indicated who is speaking by their name at the beginning of the sentence.  Initially I found this distracting but once I had fallen into the story I ceased to notice it.  The first few chapters introduce us to the characters and the place.  Danny isn’t actually all that likeable of a character and I found the situation a bit far-fetched, in fact I didn’t really engage with the story that much at the beginning.  I was plodding away trying to keep an open mind but it just didn’t seem to be flowing for me.  Then, suddenly, on page 17 we are introduced to the narrator as a character in the story!  I felt that this was somewhat belated and it left me confused.  I  feel that the book would have flowed better if the narrator had been introduced in the beginning.  We learn that this is actually a dual story, with Danny in the castle on one hand and Ray in prison on the other.  We find out that that Danny has told his story to Ray (at some point) and he is actually retelling it, putting it all down on paper for a writing class he is taking whilst in prison.

This is where the story actually drew me in for the first time, the prison scenes and characters seemed much more believable and well drawn than the castle scenes and the chapters just flew by, I couldn’t put the book down.

For me, Ray’s story was the real story in the book and eclipsed the story of Danny but as the story progressed, and built to it’s dramatic and emotional climax, the revelation when you discover how Danny and Ray are actually connected is quite unexpected and the final chapters are unexpectedly emotional and touching.

So overall, despite a somewhat shaky beginning, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it.



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