I should preface all this by saying that something strange happened when I read the book jacket: I didn’t comprehend a word of it. Standing in the bookstore, I was convinced this was a gothic novel about two young female cousins living alone in a castle . . . which didn’t necessarily grab me, but Jennifer Egan’s name was right there on the cover.
|I kinda like her.|
Well, when I got it home and the first page opened on some dude named Danny, I was like, “That’s no lady.” And then when there was a portable satellite dish in his bag, I was like, “MODERN times. What am I even reading right now?”
I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to you, because it’s jarring. The book is about two BOY cousins. Adult ones. And the story is set in present-day Europe. Austria maybe? No one seems to know. But Howard, the one boy-cousin, purchased an old castle he's planning to turn into a resort. And Danny, the other boy-cousin, was in the middle of some drama in New York, so when Howard said he would pay Danny's travel expenses if he helped prepare the castle, he was amenable to that idea. The trouble is, Danny hasn’t seen Howard since they were kids, and there’s a big Past Event hanging over their relationship. So Danny has the nerves about seeing Howard again, and it doesn't help that it's happening in this crumbling, ominous castle in Germany or possibly the Czech Republic.
If you think you have a grasp of what this book is about because of my excellent summary above, I should also mention this is a story WITHIN a story. And you also get some gothic, borderline-supernatural elements as a bonus.
|Just for being you.|
I think this was only Egan’s second book, and it has some hint of the perspective-shifting style she went on to perfect in that shiny, splendiferous novel some years later. But it’s not quite there YET.
I had one foot out the door for at least 3/4 of the book. I’ll be honest. She does a weird thing where she prefaces each line of dialogue with the speaker’s name, followed by a colon; there’s nary a quotation mark to be found. And if her shunning of traditional punctuation isn't enough, there are some other . . . odd occurrences.
But the last 1/4? Something clicked, and I saw that the stuff I’d been wary of wouldn’t have worked any other way. And the shift was so subtle and perfect that I almost didn’t notice it happening. And then I backed up several pages so I could experience it again. And it was beautiful THAT time, too.
|Surprise blog-post twist!|
On the basis of the whole experience, I’m gonna go ahead and recommend that you read this one. Just . . . remember it’s about boys.