The Keep by Jennifer Egan

A ne’er-do-well goes to Prague to work for his cousin, who’s turning an old castle into a retreat-style hotel, but the castle is holding secrets, not to mention the fact that this story’s being written by a prison inmate with a crush on his writing teacher.

The Keep is a story within a story with superlative atmosphere but a less-than-satisfying plot. Egan’s command of form is expert, as she weaves the disparate narrative strands seamlessly together, but the book lacks a gripping center. There are number of spine-tingling, gut-wrenching set pieces, as well as some wonderful moments of deep character complexity, but I found myself wishing that Egan had given herself more pages in which to develop her story and make it more than just a formal exercise. Egan’s previous novel, Look At Me, proved that she could tell a story and tell it well, but it seems that in The Keep she fell in love with the genre and gave short shrift to the story.

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