Review of The Keep by Jennifer Egan

The KeepThe Keep by Jennifer Egan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don’t know if I am being overly critical of this book but it really didn’t live up to my expectation. This might be partially down to the details on the jacket. The hype around the Pulitzer prize not helping.

This book even has the following on the back cover:

‘A gripping and ghostly gothic tale…one of those rare books that reminds you exactly why you love reading’ – Daily male.

So, this is your warning, the ghost element of this book is pretty bare. There is certainly no fear factor and limited ‘ghostly’ atmosphere (in my opinion).

However, the story isn’t bad. Young guy, financially unstable, who is a bit of a nobody, rarely makes ties or puts down roots and lives by the call of the Wifi signal decides to uproot and go and work for his rich enigmatic cousin restoring a castle into a luxurious hotel where all is not quite as it seems. Sounds good right?

So, trying to figure out why I didn’t love this story, I think there were a couple of reasons:
• The writing was driving me nuts. The speech was depicted in a sort of script form and even then not consistently so, often it was not identified at all. So following the flow was painful, to say the least. This is a genuine extract of a phone call within the story but this writing style continues throughout the book, so distinguishing between thought and speech is rather frustrating.

Danny: Martha –
She was right, he was going to say it. And he did: I love you.
And you love me.
You’re losing it.

• The novel was full of melancholy and there were very few areas of light to be found in the pages. I understand that the job of a novel in this genre is to make it dark and brooding but there is very little contrast.
• The novel changes narrator. I don’t think this is a spoiler as it happens fairly early on. In the end the stories tie in etc so it’s not really a problem of loose ends. However, I do read a lot of dual timeline and time slip novels and there is just something jarring in the way this story is woven together it feels very jarring.
• There was no wow factor. I kept waiting for something unpredictable, some kind of plot twist, something I’d overlooked to come back to light, but it never arrived. That very thing that keeps you reading just never happened so it left me feeling a little deflated and unrewarded as I had ploughed my way through the book to the end.

I didn’t give this a 1 star, so here is what I liked about the book.

• I like the concept of this book. Not only the storyline of the Castle and all it’s dark brooding but the second storyline of the woman teaching writing in a male prison. There was a definite interest there for me and I am disappointed that I did not enjoy it more.
• The themes of the book deal with a lot including childhood trauma, gothic horror (castle), prison, romance, affairs, wealth, leadership, etc etc. which I appreciate is not an easy task.
• The scenes of Danny walking around the castle grounds are a nice touch, particularly the pool and of course the keep with its strange occupant, a malevolent baroness who refuses to vacate the castle

Overall, not great but not bad either. I don’t know, maybe I missed something? Others seem to love this book but it just didn’t live up to what I was hoping for from the description.

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