Castle: A Novel by J. Robert Lennon


How long ago was I confessing I don't get enough sleep? Well, I consider last night an exception to the rule. Paul was away on a rare overnight business trip, which meant there was no one to complain "Turn out the light and go to sleep!" And you've probably figured out what happens when I'm left  unsupervised. I am a very, very bad egg. So, I was up 'til about 2:30 finishing J. Robert Lennon's Castle.

But you would have been, too.

Now I'm struggling as to how to describe this book. I can give you the basic plot: a  man originally from small town, Upstate New York returns to his hometown, many years after he'd left. Something terrible happened in his family during his childhood, but he's been away so long not many people even remember him. He purchases a large tract of land in the country, including an older house that's falling into disrepair. The land is also partially wooded with a strange, bowl-shaped forest, in the middle of which is a large rock.

The man is, how do I put this, antisocial. Perhaps pathologically so. He considers himself superior to everyone he meets, and doesn't have a firm grasp on his temper or his tendency toward righteous indignation, even when no offense was intended. He fixes up the house on his own and moves in. When he starts exploring the forest he has strange memories that seem part flashback, part nightmarish imagination. And the reader doesn't know which until much later in the book.

Telling more would be spilling the beans.

So, how did I feel about the experience of reading this book? I was riveted. I had to know the secrets, why the main character felt such a visceral reaction to the forest, who or what was responsible for the strange things that started happening to him. What happened in his early life to make him the way he was.

There's a twist at the 3/4 point. It ties in where he'd been during his absence, and how his childhood lead him to be the man he is. The switch is so sudden I didn't expect it. In fact, Lennon turns on the proverbial dime.

To those who may read it, don't let it throw you too much. Keep going. It'll all make sense by the end. A lot of readers won't like this technique. It's disruptive to the flow of what's a very exciting scene. I think it's done deftly, but not everyone will. This will be a sticking point with many; from this point on things change rapidly and dramatically.

This is a strange novel. It reminds me of Jennifer Egan's The Keep, which is one of those love it or hate it books. I personally loved it. It won't satisfy people who like their loose ends all conveniently tied up, but those who love the dark, gothic writing of Ian McEwan may appreciate this book. It also has a Barbara Vine quality because it delves into the main character's extremely complex, partly amnesiac, perhaps psychotic mind.

For me, it was worth giving up sleep.

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (March 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555975224
  • Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

    You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

    Connecting to %s