"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." -Vladimir Nobokov

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Review: The Keep

Creepy me with creepy book!
I finished The Keep by Jennifer Egan over a month ago, but I haven't really been able to formulate any coherent thoughts about it until now.

Here, in all its glory, is the Goodreads plot summary: 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 that brings the crimes of the past and present into piercing relation. 

Great premise, right? I picked this book up because it wasn't the kind of thing I normally read. I mean, I'll read just about anything so maybe that's not the best descriptor, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm not usually into the whole mystery/horror genre. I am, however, fascinated by old European castles.

But that's the thing about this book: It's hard to describe. Yes, it's creepy. Yes, there are funny bits. Yes, there is some mystery to it. But just the simple combination of those feelings isn't enough to tell you how I felt when I closed it.

Let's start with the narrative structure. This book is really two stories in one. The first is about Danny, a guy who travels to an unnamed country in eastern Europe to help his cousin renovate an old castle. He's a bit quirky: He must be connected to the internet at all times, and he has kind of a sixth sense when it comes to finding wireless internet access. He wears eyeliner and is very attached to a pair of lucky boots. I really liked his character and he's definitely one of the most unique narrators I've read in a long time. The second story is about a prisoner who's enrolled in a creative writing class. He too is interesting, but almost more interesting are the people who are in jail with him, especially his roommate Davis, and Holly the creative writing teacher. The stories are told in alternating chapters, with Danny's in 3rd person and the prisoner's in 1st. And then the reader realizes that the prisoner is actually the one writing Danny's story.

Once that happens, things move along very quickly. The setting is just plain awesome, and the keep, the stronghold, seems to loom over you through the entire story. Secrets come out, alliances form, and everything speeds toward a heart pounding and very surprising climax.

The two things that bothered me about this book were:
a) There were a couple rather significant loose ends that weren't really tied up.
b) The last chapter is basically a short story told from the POV of a minor character. The last few pages of Danny's story left me feeling so emotionally raw, but that feeling was lessened by the add-on.

Overall, I suggest you read this book for the feeling you get when you finish it. It's the type of book that leaves you staring up into the darkness, ghostly images and words still echoing in your mind. That's why it took me so long to write a review of The Keep. It's hard to distance yourself from it, even after you've read the last page.

No comments:

Post a Comment