Picked this one up from the library while searching for their apparently invisible Phillip K Dick section(¡so frustrating!). Last term I studied ‘Look at Me’ by Egan and very much enjoyed it; it was a mix of sub-plots that didn’t even really culminate into something but that did seem to be the point. The exploration of new ways of thinking and connecting with people through the internet, as well as the power of the old, was not only enjoyable but intellectually-engaging.
‘The Keep’ is, somewhat unfortunately, much of the same. Different character’s stories (literally) overlap, and this time the culmination seems obvious and yet is played out in the same way- the main female character is the last voice, bringing all of the stories to a conclusion in a way that allows her to seemingly escape from the strangleholds of contemporary society.
The tone, as well, is very similar, and yes, they’re written by th esame author so you would expect some overlap, but for me it had an almost distorting effect on the castle setting as it was a very American ‘European Castle’ setting. Which yeah, the reason that is like that becomes apparent but still, I couldn’t get over how similar the despondency of the tine was to ‘Look at Me’.
And it wasn’t just that that was similar; I recognised the characters! Or at least some of them. Z was there, inhabiting Danny. Charlotte in Holly, Moose in Howie. Again, this was a shame because the plot itself was almost different, almost. Themes were the same; dis/connection, identity in recognising and being recognised (alto), insincerity, and the old wielding it’s power over the new.
With all that said, it did make me cry. At a similar point that I think ‘Look at Me’ made me cry. The motif of the mother not being able to cope, collapsing in bed and not being able to move; it does make me wonder if Egan has experience along these lines. This time, the daughters’ one comment, ‘I just want you to get better’, well, it hit home, too hard, and I struggled to get through the rest of the book before allowing that emotion to overtake me. It’s not something I often do, it’s weak, it may break me- my resolve, and I have to be strong which often leads to me just not feeling.
So, I just wanted to say thank you, to Jennifer Egan, thank you for writing something that while I see all of it’s similarities to another of your books, actually achieves the aims outlined in the plot; it made me feel again, if only for a night, and for that I am truly grateful.