Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Keep

Jennifer Egan's The Keep mixes love, ghost and Gothic stories into a fine literary thriller. While the book is a bit too self-referential to provide true scares or deep surprises, it manages to evoke dread and create suspense while spinning a story about the challenges of connecting with others.

The story begins in an unnamed Central European country where Howard invites his cousin Danny to come stay and work. Twenty years past, Danny was involved in a cruel prank on Howard, but now Howard is rich enough to but and renovate castles. Most of the castle is being repaired, but the keep, where the residing Baroness holds sway, is off-limits. Shortly after we learn all this, we are introduced to Ray, who is writing the story for his maximum security prison writing class.

The hazy line between imagination and reality is constantly tested. Howard believes that his technology free hotel will allow people to experience imagination as it once was, nearly a hallucination. Danny, with technology withdrawal, paranoia and other reasons to be hazy has a number of experiences that hard to explain. Outside of the story, the degree to which Ray is simply retelling or inventing his story isn't always clear. When you have finished reading the book, take a look at a faux promotional site for the hotel at the Keep. It clears up a few mysteries.

Egan balances the elements of Gothic and ghost in the castle story and awkward potential romance between Ray and his teacher quite well. Aside from a coda that doesn't really fit with the rest of the book, this is a stupendous read.

No comments: