Thursday, July 26, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: The Keep by Jennifer Egan

Twenty years after the tragic event which ended their childhood friendship, Danny has been summoned to a Gothic castle under renovation by his cousin Howie. Once subjected to abuse for his “geekiness,” Howie has made a fortune in bond trading and retired in style, with his retinue, to a crumbling castle somewhere in Eastern Europe which he plans to remake into a luxurious hotel.

Danny is eager to leave New York where his peripheral involvement with the mob is causing trouble, even if it means confronting uncomfortable family history and dealing with uncertain cellular service. Despite early promise, Danny has failed to establish himself in any career, instead making a study of power and knowing instinctively if wireless services are available purely by a crawling of his skin.

After he arrives, Danny learns that the castle has another resident, the last remaining member of the von Ausblinker family, the original owners. Danny sees a beautiful young woman in the keep’s windows, although the eccentric Baroness barricaded within is at least 90. She’s determined to outlast Howie (as she has numerous attempts in the past to oust her from her home) and Howie is resolved to remove her to gain access the dungeon’s secrets below the keep.

Just as the reader succumbs to The Keep, Jennifer Egan adds another layer. Danny and Howie’s story is narrated by Ray, a convict imprisoned for an unspecified crime, who is developing the story as part of a creative-writing workshop. When challenged, Ray insists that he is merely relating a story passed on to him by another man.

Everyone in The Keep is imprisoned in some manner, whether in jail, the physical keep, the grip of addiction or in a struggle for power. Egan uses every trick to convey the feelings of unease and paranoia which imprisonment can bring, all while suggesting imagination may provide the only escape. While at times her manipulations have the elegance of a battering ram, overall Egan manages to create a labyrinthine novel sure to leave readers questioning what prisons contain their life.

ISBN10: 1400079748
ISBN13: 9781400079742

Trade Paperback
272 pages
Publisher: Anchor Books
Publication Date: July 10, 2007
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