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The Keep

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  13,184 ratings  ·  1,777 reviews
Award-winning author Jennifer Egan brilliantly conjures a world from which escape is impossible and where the keep-–the tower, the last stand-–is both everything worth protecting and the very thing that must be surrendered in order to survive.

Two cousins, irreversibly damaged by a childhood prank, reunite twenty years later to renovate a medieval castle in Eastern Europe.
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published August 1st 2006 by Knopf (first published 2006)
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James (JD) Dittes I think the fun of the book is that we don't ever know how fully Ray and Danny are the same character. I had assumed that the story was Ray's allegory…moreI think the fun of the book is that we don't ever know how fully Ray and Danny are the same character. I had assumed that the story was Ray's allegory. I'm really glad that Egan left this unclear.(less)

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Average rating 3.46  · 
Rating details
 ·  13,184 ratings  ·  1,777 reviews

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Aug 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: distant-lands
god, i am so glad jennifer egan won the pulitzer. when i heard she won, i said "her??"

because i had read invisible circus and thought it was really average and not to my liking at all. but then i read goon squad, for science, which made me read this one, and i loved them both. and now i say loudly "HER!"

this one has similarities to goon squad (and thankfully none to invisible circus). it is a weaving narrative swirling metafictionally between a criminal writing a story for his prison writing cl
Apr 02, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: rejectbin
i thought this was the most criminally over-hyped and misrepresented book of last year. clearly, Jennifer Egan has many well-placed friends (and fellow back scratchers) at the NY Times Book Section to fawningly and falsely fan the flames for this book. "The Keep" is two half-fleshed out novellas awkwardly crammed together. with a tacked-on third short story/chapter at the end.

i cannot believe that any accomplished and previously published author would look at this fragmentary and sloppy work an
Mar 13, 2008 rated it liked it
My review of this book will sound like it deserves more stars than I've given it, because overall, I only found one flaw in this fine homage to ghost stories and their tellers. Unfortunately, it's a major one, though I'm sure some will read right past it without so much as a blip. Egan sets up two fascinating threads, that of two cousins coming together in adulthood to play out the effects of a long-held secret between them, and the prisoner crafting their tale while taking a writing class from ...more
Jan 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: pretty much anyone but me, they all seem to love her
Recommended to Jessica by: mike reynolds, i think?
I've had this conviction for a long time that Jennifer Egan should be one of my favorite writers. She's a SHE who writes popular-but-smart contemporary fiction with ideas and experimental stuff in it. My hero!

Ex-punks from the Bay Area! A woman teaching writing in prison...?!!! It's like Jennifer Egan produces books especially for ME! Oh yes, my swooning Egan fangirl plan makes so much sense on paper... The only problem with it is that for some reason I can't stand her books. First I tried A Vis
Oct 26, 2007 rated it it was ok
I picked this one up a month or so ago based on the NY Times Book Review writeup from forever ago, because was that review so positive that it glowed like a deep-sea anglerfish's esca? Oh, yes. But is that an apt metaphor? Also yes, because reading the book felt like being digested by an anglerfish (if you know what that feels like), plus guess what, and this is the most important take-away:

A book review in the NY Times Book Review is different from a book review in the NY Times; did everyone e
Mattia Ravasi
Sep 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Featured in my Top 20 Books I Read in 2016:

Dope beyond words. An extraordinary Gothic novel that draws on its tradition to reflect upon the powers of the imagination, to stimulate the reader's, and to push the limits of first person narration TO THE MAX. Shares several similarities with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and Oscar Wao is pretty much the best novel of all times.
Jennifer Marie
Here's another one of my "write the review as I go" commentaries. ** SPOILERS **

1- I would NEVER have chosen this book on my own, which means someone recommended it to me, but I can't for the life of me remember who.

2- I don't like the protagonist. I didn't from the start, and 1/4 into the book he's only just starting to have some redeeming qualities, but even so I just can't warm up to him.

3- The swearing. Too much, I just don't like swearing in books, and I know many would say this is middle,
Apr 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book is told (written) by an inmate in prison taking a writing class. The narrator (the inmate) isn't a great writer; he doesn't always know the "correct" word for things. (on the first page he refers to the top of castle having those "rectangle things that kids always put on the top of castles.") This "untalented" narrator allows for some of the best, coolest description of things and feelings I've ever read.

A very fast read. The end is disappointing, but only b/c so much of the book is gr
Sep 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
After reading (and loving) Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad almost two years ago, I purposefully didn't pick up anything else she wrote for a while. I didn't want to run the risk that the author of one of my all-time favorite books was a flash in the pan, a one-trick pony. Turns out I needn't have worried. The Keep is a rich, perplexing, wonderful book, and the less you know about it going in, the better.

At first it appears to be about childhood resentments bubbling to the surface in
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I can't stop thinking about this book. Jennifer Egan is masterful at taking something (or sometimes a character) that's beautiful and forbidding and mysterious and slowly rendering it recognizably, imperfectly human. This book is particularly accomplished at just that. And the way she does it in two (actually three) parallel narratives reveals the shape of the over-arching metaphor in a particularly affecting way. I don't want to give anything away here, because the process of unfolding the myst ...more
Oct 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
I picked up Jennifer Egan's The Keep because, well, Halloween, and for its premise: three different stories told by three different narrators that intertwine for an unusual twist on the gothic tale. The Keep opens with a seemingly traditional gothic tale. Danny arrives at the doorstep of a castle somewhere in central Europe after a maddeningly long and confusing journey. He's tired and disoriented and before him, in all its glory, is a mysterious castle, heavy with atmosphere and history, someth ...more
Sep 21, 2009 rated it did not like it
I picked up my copy of this book in the convenience store next to our resort on Greek's party island, Ios. It jumped out at me, begging to be read, and since I'd heard great reviews of it on Amazon and it was high up on my TBR pile, I thought 'I'm on hols, the other novels can wait - why not?'. So I ignored the frustration welling in my heart at the sight of an 18 euro price tag for such a slimline paperback, and bought it.

I didn't get to read it on the plane (too tired) and have only just finis
Dec 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book was such an enigma to me and only half way thought was when I started appreciating the delectable balance of realms changing from sanity to the reality that the author wanted me to appreciate. The Keep is unlike any other book I've read in the past year, it has more than one narrator, three to be exact, and all different people who become the strands of the rope binding the story. This tale reads like a surreal fairy tale switching between Danny who has lost his home, job and stability ...more
Dec 15, 2007 rated it it was ok
The second I finished this book, the only way I could think of how to describe it is "Bah, humbug." Let down. Disappointed. Why do I keep believing these "Thriller! What a page turner!" critic reviews? Lies, all lies.

If I could give this 2.5 stars, I would. I'm going to be generous and bump it up to 3, since at least I wasn't extremely bored during my read. But I knew a few pages in when the word "frigging" was used to describe something that this was probably not the most literary book I'd be
Jun 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This book blew me away on so many levels (although it’s a tricky one to review without spoilers). Egan is a master of her craft – she creates vivid, lively characters and puts them into strange and intense situations, which kept me on the edge of my seat. Deadbeat New Yorker Danny finds himself down on luck and escapes to his cousin Howard’s castle in Eastern Europe, which is being renovated into a tech-free resort in the 1990s. But Danny and Howie have unfinished business from childhood, w ...more
Jan 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Even though I read this way back in 2007, I am posting my review now. I don't think Goodreads even existed in 2007. In any case I was not a member. But tonight I am posting my review of A Visit From the Good Squad, which is related to my feelings about The Keep. So here you go:

Wow! Wow! Wow! So good. I've been fascinated about this book since I first heard of it, but even so all the reviews did not begin to explain what it is really about. Yes, there is a crumbling castle with a keep in eastern
Sep 01, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
A very peculiar book, about two cousins who re-unite at an old castle in Germany after not having seen each other since childhood. Along with this, it's the story of an inmate in prison for shooting someone in the head. At first, the transitions seemed a little jarring, as well as the narration, but I found it pretty easy to get the swing of.

A lot of readers seemed put off by the vague narration style, and how at times you don't really know what happened or if things were just a dream. I'm a fan
Jan 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
I was puzzled while I was reading this book, and am still puzzled after finishing it. It's a story within a story: we watching a suspenseful tale unfold, set in a European castle, through the eyes of a narrator who happens to be a prisoner writing the story for a writing class. Jennifer Egan does some interesting "technical" things--moving between the first person and third person, between the present and the past, creating some moments of true suspense. (One scene that took place in an enclosed ...more
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
I have mixed feelings about The Keep. The premise is two cousins are stranded after a horrible childhood prank goes wrong (think life threatening). They are reunited as adults renovating a European castle, where they “reenact the signal event of their youth, with even more catastrophic results”. Sounds good right? I thought the writing was engaging and the story compelling. The problem is there are too many implausible plot points, and the story doesn’t really hang together. I don’t regret readi ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Jul 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Loved this - a story, within a story, within a story. One of my favourite things about Egan is how she weaves our conflicted relationship to technology into her stories without the references sounding anachronistic or hokey. This is a minor but important note in this novel about our alienation from our own imaginations (the grandiose theme), or, if you prefer, a guy whose vacation to visit his childhood buddy goes horribly wrong.
Chris Wolak
May 22, 2020 marked it as dnf
I received an ARC way back when this book was first coming out and couldn't get into it. I tried again now after seeing an interview with the author and got to 43% on the library ebook I borrowed, but have decided to DNF it. I just didn't care about the characters or their situation.
Aug 12, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: hated-it
Spoiler Alert!!! (But you may seriously want to consider whether you want to read this book.) I really liked "A Visit from the Goon Squad" so I was eager to read another novel by Egan, but something must have gone very wrong. Here is what I think happened: The author decided, ‘Let me write a book about a golden boy turned total loser who does something that makes him have to flee NYC (I won’t explain what he did because maybe the reader won’t care) and I will have him travel to a castle in some ...more
Aniko Carmean
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
There are two things an author can do that almost guarantee I will not finish reading her book. The first is to break standard prose conventions, especially if the intent is to showcase how 'edgy' or 'experimental' the author is. The second is when an omniscient narrator's voice intrudes on the flow of the story. Jennifer Egan does both of these things in THE KEEP, but what is remarkable - and the reason that I said "almost guarantee" rather than "ensure" - is I kept reading THE KEEP. In fact, d ...more
Aug 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Liz by: Amazon
Shelves: general-fiction
This book was such a surprise -- a story within a story within a story. Danny did a horrible thing to his cousin Howie when they were kids. Twenty years later, Howie's a mega millionaire who's bought a castle in Europe and he sends for the troubled Goth Danny. Is this reality, or just a story Ray has created for his prison writing class? Is THAT reality, or just a fantasy a recovering meth addict has created?

Lots of tunnels, and words, and the color orange, and dungeons and secrets.
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
My LAST BOOK of the 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge! (A book set in a hotel. Yeah, I know this was a bit of a cheat, but I think it counts.) And it ended on such a high note with this book. It was mind-bending, engrossing, and will definitely stay with me for a while. Now I just want to read more of Jennifer Egan's books.
Tammy Parks
3.5 stars
Creepy, atmospheric, page turning, and full of unexpected twists, there is a lot going on within the 250 pages of this novel. I simultaneously enjoyed and was quite frustrated by this book. I love parallel storylines, and Egan uses that narrative device to great effect. One thread is a gothic-style ghost story set in a crumbling castle in remote Eastern Europe. The other revolves around a creative writing class, held at a prison. There is also a third part that links the two narratives.
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audible
Binge listened in a day. What better way to pass the long hours in bed with a fever and chills? This is a Gothic castle adventure but with a Jennifer Egan modern twist. I knew it was going to be good.

It was.
Jul 04, 2013 rated it liked it
The Keep by Jennifer Egan is an intriguing gothic ghost story with a difference. It is metafiction with layering of narratives. In my view, it is principally about the power of the imagination and what constitutes reality.

Set in a medieval castle, the story is told mainly by Ray, the protagonist-narrator, who cranked up the suspense as the reader traversed the castle grounds. The decrepit castle was in the process of being spruced into a hotel and carried within its mysterious halls a putrid po
Dec 29, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What is real?

That was what I kept asking myself while reading this novel. Now, more than a week after going through the whole book, I still don't feel quite ready to answer the question. To be honest, I think that's the point.

We are told what seem to be, at first, two different stories, one real and one fiction, the fictional one being written by a character from the real one. Then, at some point, they intertwine as, after reading A Visit from the Goon Squad, one would expect. But, instead of ma
Nov 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. I'm unsure if I should put this on my "time travel" or "ghosts" shelves or not. It's not really about time travel or ghosts... except kind of!

This was a reread; I read this book probably 10 years ago, but didn't remember it. Which is a good thing, because I got to experience it again! What a strange and fascinating story. I adore all the gothic trappings. This book is about reality: what is real? What are ghosts? What is memory? Do distinctions like "past" and "present" matter, or is
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UPEP Reading Grou...: Week 8: The Keep (inspired by Gothic fiction) 1 3 Aug 22, 2019 09:22PM  
It's not really about the plot. 1 78 Nov 11, 2012 05:57AM  
questions i have 2 132 Jan 18, 2008 09:27AM  

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Jennifer Egan’s 2017 novel, Manhattan Beach, has been awarded the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. Egan was born in Chicago and raised in San Francisco. She is also the author of The Invisible Circus, a novel which became a feature film starring Cameron Diaz in 2001, Look at Me, a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction in 2001, Emerald City and Other Stories, The Keep ...more

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“Howie's troubles were a favorite family topic, and behind the shaking heads and oh it's so sads you could hear the joy pushing right up through because doesn't every family like having one person who's fucked up so fantastically that everyone else feels like a model citizen next to him?” 6 likes
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