The Keep


Author: Jennifer Egan; Audiobook read by Jeff Gurner and Geneva Carr

Title: The Keep

Genre: Literary fiction; Gothic fiction; Bestsellers; Audiobooks

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: Hardcover: 240; Audiobook: 7 discs – 8 hours

Geographical Setting: Castle in Central Europe; U.S. prison

Time Period: Contemporary

Plot Summary: After Danny’s involvement in a childhood prank that nearly left his cousin dead, he never expected to see Howard again. Yet when Danny is all out of options in his beloved New York, he finds himself accepting his cousin’s offer to help renovate a remote castle in Central Europe, despite his need for technological connections and an uncertainty about Howard’s motives for asking him. Howard’s goal is to create a hotel in which people leave technology behind to “be tourists of their own imaginations.” Yet as Danny explores the mysterious castle and gets to know the 98-year-old baroness who calls the keep her home, he and readers alike begin to wonder what’s real and what’s imagined. As paranoia builds in this storyline, another layer of uncertainty is added through the narration of Ray, a prison inmate who seems to be relating the story of the keep for his creative writing class. Eventually, these alternating threads weave together to form a complex tale with themes of power, imagination, connections, and how the past haunts us all. While some transitions and elements of the untraditional narrative structure don’t translate seamlessly to audio format, the narrators are able to make up for this by enhancing the book’s cinematic qualities and evoking a more emotional response from the listener.

Subject Headings: Gothic fiction, Castles, Cousins, Power, Revenge, Paranoia, Prison life, Creative writing, Story-within-a-story, Role of technology, Clash of old and new

Appeal: Atmospheric, atypical narrative style, complex characters, detailed settings, eerie, engrossing, interweaving storylines, multiple narrators, tense, tragic, vivid

Three Words or Phrases Best Describing this Book: Layered, creepy, cinematic

3 Similar Fiction Works and Authors
End of Story by Peter Abrahams (A psychological thriller based around a writing teacher in a prison and her connection with one of her students; a suspenseful page-turner for readers interested in the prison storyline from The Keep.)

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (Layered and eerie Victorian-era mystery with a strong sense of place; one of Egan’s style inspirations in writing The Keep.)

Different Seasons by Stephen King (This collection follows a theme of journeys through four distinctly different novellas, including the source story for The Shawshank Redemption, which most directly relates to The Keep; readers who enjoyed the eerie, cinematic quality of The Keep might want to check this out.)

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors
The Medieval Fortress: Castles, Forts, and Walled Cities of the Middle Ages by J.E. Kaufmann and H.W. Kaufmann (Readers interested in the keep and its defenses, as described in pivotal scenes in The Keep, can turn here for a detailed, visual discussion of castles, keeps, siege tactics and weapons.)

Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg (Memoir of a former prison librarian and creative writing teacher, with parallels to characters from the prison thread of The Keep; moving, thought-provoking, blends moral reflections with wit.)

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle (An exploration of the power of technology and its impact on our social lives; readers who identify with Danny’s need to be connected or Howard’s desire to escape technology may be interested in this well-researched look at isolation and connectivity.)

By: Elaine


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