three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
25-Nov-Dec-2006
user_rating: 
0

A-The KeepA childhood prank left cousins Howard and Danny estranged. Twenty years later, they reunite in Germany when Howard, a high-school misfit who’s now a millionaire, invites hipster New Yorker Danny to assist him in transforming an old German castle into a New Age luxury hotel. But has Howard finally forgiven Danny for nearly taking his life years earlier? As their drama unfolds, Danny encounters the castle’s baroness, who has no intention of letting Howard’s plans progress, and Ray, a drugged-out inmate, tells his—and the cousins’—story for a prison writing workshop.
Knopf. 256 pages. $23.95. ISBN: 1400043921

NY Times Book Review 4.5 of 5 Stars
"The opening of her new novel, The Keep, lays out a whole Escherian architecture, replete with metafictional trapdoors, pitfalls, infinitely receding reflections and trompe l’oeil effects, but what’s more immediately striking about this book is its unusually vivid and convincing realism. … Egan constructs a prism that refracts themes of power, knowledge, confinement, and escape through the multiple levels of her story." Madison Smartt Bell

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"A novel as daring as Jennifer Egan’s The Keep makes us think hard about one of the murkiest mysteries of all: the mystery of perception, that uncertain border where reality and imagination meet. … In a novel full of unexpected shifts and interruptions, it’s amazing how deftly Egan builds a logic for her characters." Joanna Scott

Minneapolis Star Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"It’s to Egan’s credit, and to her uncanny ability with point of view, that the reader can stand to spend more than a page in [Danny’s] company. … If you want to bolt when you hear the phrase ‘a tale about the power of storytelling itself’ you will be surprised by how subtly Egan does just that." Emily Carter Roiphe

Oregonian 3.5 of 5 Stars
"How she weaves the story of these four people together—and the unexpected links between them—is fascinating." April Henry

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Unfortunately, once Danny’s story ends, there’s not much to keep readers involved in Ray’s story. Still, I’d rather read something that breaks the usual mold and is marginally successful than a novel that follows the same old formula." Kathy Harris

New York Times 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Which is more eerie: the legend of twins drowned in the castle’s swimming pool, or that Danny cannot live without hearing disembodied voices from the outside world? … But despite such thoughtful provocations The Keep winds up frustratingly unresolved and falls into a moat of its own making." Janet Maslin

Cleveland Plain Dealer 2 of 5 Stars
"The up-and-down quality of the writing complicates an already jumpy book. … The last chapter sinks into the muck of sentimentality, but, more important, the book’s obvious final image emphasizes a reoccurring problem. All too often, Egan shouts ideas that she has already skillfully whispered." Daniel A. Hoyt

Critical Summary

Jennifer Egan’s The Keep garnered more mixed reviews than her National Book Award finalist Look at Me. While critics compared aspects of the new novel to Stephen King’s The Shining and HBO’s The Sopranos in its creative and visionary daring, many felt that Egan has too many tricks up her sleeve here. Some praised her framing device with its multiple narratives (Ray’s novel-within-a-novel), but others called it ponderous and apparent from the start. Yet there’s no question that this gothic tale—replete with a castle, a tower, and ample torture—contains vivid, all-too-realistic descriptions, provoking themes of imprisonment, and great suspense.