Two cousins, Howie and Danny reunite after many years at a decrepit castle in central Europe. Howie has asked Danny to come from New York to help convert the castle into a hotel. In their past, there had been an incident where Danny abandoned Howie in an underground cave, leaving him traumatised, so Danny is not sure how he will be received. There’s also a parallel story about prison inmate Ray who is taking a writing course with a visiting teacher called Holly.
I found this book to be very confusing. It’s actually a story-within-a-story so the reader has to work hard to understand what is real and what is not real. Kirkus thinks that “There are a few slow spots, and the beautiful prose doesn’t entirely disguise how wildly improbable the novel’s events are, but the characters’ emotions are so real, the author’s insights so moving, that readers will be happy to be swept away. Intelligent, challenging and exciting.” The author uses “clear and often witty prose” (The Atlantic) but for the most part, I didn’t understand the premise of the narrative, nor did I get the author’s insights.
Check out the post about Manhattan Beach by the same author.
“When they were teenagers, Howie changed – overnight was what everyone said. He had a traumatic experience and his sweetness drained away, and he turned moody, anxious, always wiggling a foot, and muttering King Crimson lyrics under his breath.”
Author: Jennifer Egan
Awards: Orange Prize Nominee for Fiction Longlist (2008)