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Castle: A Novel Hardcover – March 31, 2009

42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From The New Yorker

When Eric Loesch returns to the small town in upstate New York where he was reared, he dutifully describes life there in meticulous detail: the woman who sells him his dilapidated house and its six hundred and twelve acres, the hardware store he visits, the large outcropping of rock he can see from his bedroom window. And when he discovers that this rock in the center of his view marks a tiny patch of land that is not, legally, his, and that the owner’s name has been blacked out on the property deed, he decides to fill the gap in the official record. Meanwhile, the reader is wrestling with the narrator’s own troubling omissions: Why does Eric hate his sister? Why can he remember so little of his childhood, and why won’t the woman in the hardware store sell him a gun? As Lennon investigates the lethal consequences of failing to question authority, what begins as a claustrophobic tale of suspense gradually becomes an indictment of national policy.
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From Bookmarks Magazine

When it comes to psychological thrillers, even one like Castle that has literary aspirations, critics invariably judge a book's ability to suspend a reader's disbelief. And why not? While not flawless -- the author's plotting and a creaky backstory sometimes get in the way of a compelling character study, and unpredictable twists threw off some reviewers -- Lennon's latest novel, a weird mÈlange of John Fowles and Silence of the Lambs, is worth a look. Pay particular attention to descriptions of landscapes and the evolution of the novel's complex, unreliable narrator, a deeply troubled man who realizes, perhaps too late, that "every human interaction was a psychological experiment."

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press; First Edition edition (March 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555975224
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555975227
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,241,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

J. Robert Lennon is the author of a story collection, Pieces For The Left Hand, and seven novels, including Mailman, Castle, and Familiar. He holds an MFA from the University of Montana, and has published short fiction in The New Yorker, Harper's, Playboy, Granta, The Paris Review, Electric Literature, and elsewhere. He has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, and his story "The Rememberer" inspired the CBS detective series Unforgettable. His book reviews have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Guardian, and The London Review of Books, and he lives in Ithaca, New York, where he teaches writing at Cornell University.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Bluestalking Reader VINE VOICE on May 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I'm struggling as to how, exactly, to describe this book. I can give you the basic plot: a man originally from small town, Upstate New York returns to where he grew up, many years after he'd left. Something terrible happened in his family while they lived there, but he's been away so long not many people 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 forested 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, as he's unrepentant. 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 imagination. And the reader doesn't know which until much later in the book.

Telling more would be spilling the beans. And there will be no bean spilling here.

So, how did I feel about the experience of reading this book? I felt 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 for many years of 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 end up reading it, don't let it throw you too much. Keep reading. It'll all make sense by the end.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By aliled VINE VOICE on January 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The writing style is fine, and for the first half of the book, I was pretty intrigued. Lennon set up "Castle" in such a fashion that it would have to have a pretty enthralling ending to work, and having read a few pieces by him in such places as Granta, I didn't doubt he'd pull it off. Sadly, though, he didn't.

The protagonist (so to speak) of the book, Eric Loesch, is a loner with some sort of mysterious chip on his shoulder and exceedingly poor social skills. He buys an old house surrounded by hundreds of acres of land in his old hometown and sets about remodeling the house in his odd misanthropic way, and exploring the woods surrounding it. Not much emerges for quite a while, but Lennon artfully builds a high level of tension around the scant happenings.

Then, rapidly, the book falls apart. As another review pointed out, the ending weaves in two additional plot lines into the existing narrative. Without spoiling it, one of them makes almost no logical sense without a very ardent belief in the capability of deeply-buried memories suddenly springing forth into a full consciousness which supersedes empirical reality. Here, even with the artful suspension of plausibility one might grant a writer, it makes no sense. It's unbelievable to a nearly comic extent.

Weave in an additional plot line with greater believability but even less of a connection to the pre-existing narrative and . . . well, you've lost me as a reader. I reread the last fifty pages three times trying to find some cohesion or point to the book. And I failed each time. I'd consider this book the product of someone who just cannot write, were it not for the fact that Lennon's style is impressive and that I've read fine things by him before. Even as a curiosity, this would be a tough book to recommend.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By R. Leigh on January 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I really wanted to like this book. In fact, I wanted to love it. The premise was enchanting, and despite the highly unlikable main character, the story started out intriguing. I actually did love it, at least for the first half of the book.

Erik Loesch is a terrible "protagonist." That word is in quotes because frankly, the guy is a real jerk. He's unfriendly and presumptive. He not only brushes off a hardware store clerk's attempts to make conversation, but basically challenges the poor guy for no reason at all. He's brusque and unpleasant. In a tale where we should at least start out rooting for the guy as we get to know him, I ended up not liking him any further than I could throw him (and I can't throw a grown man very far at all). He likes to talk about how highly skilled he is at certain things, how very disciplined, how very this, how very that. Reading that much boasting just gave me a headache.

The first half of this story is not only interesting, but it is absolutely addicting. I could not put the book down until I reached the halfway point. Once the plot begins to come together a bit more, it becomes apparent that this just isn't working. It's not. Almost nothing in the second half of the book makes any sense, and a good number of the questions that the first half raised go unanswered. The author should have picked a storyline and stayed with it, because by the time we get to the last chapter or two, there isn't a single thing between those pages that makes a lick of sense anymore. And that is a sad thing, because it had such a good start.
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