From National Book Award finalist Jennifer Egan, author of Look at Me (“Brilliantly unnerving . . . A haunting, sharp, splendidly articulate novel” —The New York Times), a spellbinding work of literary suspense enacted in a chilling psychological landscape—a dazzling tour de force.Two cousins, irreversibly damaged by a childhood prank whose devastating consequences changed both their lives, reunite twenty years later to renovate a medieval castle in Eastern Europe, a castle steeped in blood lore and family pride. Built over a secret system of caves and tunnels, the castle and its violent history invoke and subvert all the elements of a gothic past: twins, a pool, an old baroness, a fearsome tower. In an environment of extreme paranoia, cut off from the outside world, the men reenact the signal event of their youth, with even more catastrophic results. And as the full horror of their predicament unfolds, a prisoner, in jail for an unnamed crime, recounts an unforgettable story—a story about two cousins who unite to renovate a castle—that brings the crimes of the past and present into piercing relation.Egan’s relentlessly gripping page-turner plays with rich forms—ghost story, love story, gothic—and transfixing themes: the undertow of history, the fate of imagination in the cacophony of modern life, the uncanny likeness between communications technology and the supernatural. In a narrative that shifts seamlessly from an ancient European castle to a maximum security prison, Egan conjures a world from which escape is impossible and where the keep—the last stand, the final holdout, the place you run to when the walls are breached—is both everything worth protecting and the very thing that must be surrendered in order to survive.A novel of fierce intelligence and velocity; a bravura performance from a writer of consummate skill and style....Continua
As it turned out it's none of the above. Ms Egan starts with a tempting storyline, and lets it drift away. The reader leaves the E. Europe setting with a story far from complete - that we've spent most of the book building up. As we enter the parallel confines of the prison (which, itself, has an insubstantial - almost irrelevant - subplot), we aren't given enough time/pages to appropriately transition the well-earned suspense to the new setting/characters. One track ends before its ready - the other is never really allowed to begin. It would be one thing to leave the reader dangling if the story pointed back to us - daring us to self-reflect - but it doesn't.
All said, the story has unrealized promise. I'm left wanting more - wishing Ms Egan had finished the thought she started, rather than abandoning it in favor of a story she has no intention of taking to a satisfying conclusion....Continua