Thursday, January 29, 2015

Review: The Keep

How many times do you get the chance to read a book that's just beautiful to read, and absolutely impossible to explain to people? That's this novel... 

Have you ever experienced that instantaneous kind of love with an author's voice, where you read one book, and fall in love with them so completely, that by the time you buy another book of theirs, you almost doubt your own sense of excellence, and the new book ends up sitting on the shelf for way too damn long before you dust it off, take a breath... and fall in love all over again?

Hi, I'm Savannah, and I became slightly obsessed with Egan after reading A Visit from the Goon Squad for a class my freshman year of college. One of the things that stood out to me then was her incredibly unique sense of narration and orientation within the narrative, and I was so enamored, that I recommended it to basically everyone I knew for the ensuing year.

That unique narration style continues on into The Keep: the first two parts involve two distinctly separate narrators that end up merging in a way you wouldn't expect, while the third is told from yet another perspective. It's a lot to take in, and there are some significant benefits and drawbacks to having such an interconnected organization of narrators.

I was really surprised to read some of the negative reviews that people have put on Goodreads, because I really, really enjoyed it. It was definitely a trip; which is what makes me think that their difficulties with the novel stems from a place of confusion. Egan is great with this periphery sense of plot, where almost nothing is explicitly explained, and coupling that with alternating narrators whose place in the story isn't fully comprehensive until towards the very end, it's a difficult read.

In terms of what I personally didn't like, there were some instances where that unique narration brought me out of the story quite a bit. I love how her forms of writing are so self-aware, but when they get self-conscious to the point of breaking from the actual context of the narration, it threw me for a bit of a loop. Additionally, getting attuned to both of the voices of the lead narrators was initially difficult, and the second narrator's self-awareness of writing was sometimes too obvious.

RAPID FIRE: Random Opinion Time

  • In terms of story, it was unique; in terms of morals, I'm not sure whether there really were any, but it felt like it was really trying to give me one, especially there at the end.
  • Sometimes, I felt like the relationships between characters excelled at the hands of the backstory, but I felt that the personal characterization never got as fully realized as I would have liked.
  • This is going to sound so, so weird, but I felt that the ending was too happy. Don't get me wrong, it was a pretty terrible way to leave things off for the majority of the characters in the novel - in fact, someone ends up dead! - but it still ended too... serene. I get that was probably a result of the parallelism of the narratives, but still. 

Final Verdict: Jennifer Egan has a voice I want to run around in for days, and The Keep makes for yet another perfect playground, even with its foibles.

(I'm all about Jennifer Egan. Superfan. Ooper duper fan. I'm an Jennifer-er... an Eganite. Yeah.)

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