So my first new read of 2013 is actually a hangover from last year, but that’s not something I worry about too much as long as I am enjoying the story. And I really did enjoy this, even if it turned out to be something quite different from what I had expected, especially having read the synopsis on the back cover. Bit of an aside here, but I’m beginning to think I should stop reading the stuff publishers put on the back covers of books as they either tell you absolutely nothing (just quotes from others who have enjoyed the book), give away (almost) the entire plot or are pretty misleading (which in my view is the case here).
The Keep starts off with Danny who, in his desire to get away from trouble in New York, takes up an offer from his cousin Howard to work for him in setting up a hotel in an old castle somewhere in eastern Europe. There is history between the two cousins; when they were younger Danny and others left Howard underground in a cave which led to him having significant problems as an adult (as you would expect) but he is now a very successful millionaire planning this vanity project.
But there is another story also being told, that of a prisoner, Ray, in the States taking part in a writing class. How do the two intersect, if at all? What’s real and what’s imagined? Why is Ray in prison?
This is a clever book, and I mean that as a compliment. I enjoyed reading it and trying to work out what was going on. The gothic elements in Danny’s part of the novel are well done and his building paranoia deftly handled, and the prison story is also well told. How these two come together is nicely satisfying, but brings us to a point picked up by a number of other reviewers of this book.
The novel is split into parts, the first two divided by a particular event. There is a case to be made that if the novel had finished at the end of the second section that it would have been more effective. But the author has written a third section which picks up the story from the point of view of a third character, Holly, who taught the prison writing class. I can see both sides of the argument, but must admit that I rather liked Holly so felt that the last part didn’t really detract from the main story, but YMMV.
If you have read this I would love to know what your view is.
This is the third Jennifer Egan novel I have read, and I was introduced to her by Silvery Dude who was positively evangelical about A Visit from the Goon Squad. I have already posted my thoughts on that and on Look At Me on the blog, if you are interested. I will definitely be seeking out more of her work.