By Jennifer Egan
Completed July 20, 2008
The Keep by Jennifer Egan is a story within a story. First, it’s a story about cousins Howard and Danny, reunited to renovate a European castle – while attempting to heal from a childhood prank that scarred them both. It’s also the story of Ray, a prison inmate who was in a writing class, desperately trying to gain his teacher’s attention. You will have to read The Keep to understand how these stories reconcile, but I thought it melded together creatively.
At first, the narrative style used by Egan was a little jagged and hard to get used to. However, once I did, these characters captivated me. Ray and Danny were screaming for attention. Howard was a wounded soul in search for his life’s meaning. Even the writing teacher, Holly, emerged as a complicated yet realistic character.
While The Keep could be characterized as a Gothic novel with its musty castle, old baroness and family secrets, it’s really a story about imprisonment: how humans can imprison themselves into their daily lives, their pasts and their mistakes. Not only are characters physically imprisoned, they are emotionally “kept” too. They don’t reveal true feelings for each other. They try too hard to do what others think they should do. No one really seemed “free” in this story. It’s one of those books that will linger with me long after I completed it.
The Keep is not a book for everyone. But if you’re looking for refreshing storytelling – something a little unconventional – than I would recommend this novel to you. I look forward to reading more books by Jennifer Egan in the near future.
Monday, July 21, 2008
The Keep by Jennifer Egan (Jill)