CASTLE KEEP by William Eastlake
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William Eastlake's earlier books (Go in Beauty, 1956; The Bronc People, 1958) have had a special and specially admiring audience. This novel, a kind of philosophical pantomime and also a fairy tale, is chameleon in character and certainly not everybody's book; those who respond will like it inordinately. And while structurally casual, it has many contradictory charms; a marvelous, ingenuous humor; a certain chivalric romanticism which tilts at reality; and a sometimes mad mystique of war, women, art, sex and of course death. The title reference is to a 10th century castle in the Ardennes during World War II where an American replacement company is stationed pending the expected German putsch. It is a symbol of all that is destroyed and can never be replaced with its ""ramparts of timeless wonder and grace against the mean hand of every man."" In alternating scenes and episodes various members of the cadre appear, narrate: Major Falconer who has been tapped by the castle's Comte de Maldorais, an impotent man, to assure the lineage through his young wife, half his age; Captain Lionel Beckman, art historian, now the self-appointed custodian of the castle's paintings; and on down through Corporal Clearboy, a Negro, Private Henry Three Ears, an Indian, da Vaca; the cook, all of whom will respond to the challenge-- ""if the castle does not stand.. we fail, all fails."" Too, there are all kinds of obstreperous sorties, to the local brothel, through the countryside as they round up some Evangelists, hunt deer, pilfer champagne, etc. etc. The humor is untrammeled and so is much of the language which is the soldier's braggadocio of obscenity... Mr. Eastlake's talent is hard both to contain and isolate-- it just, exists.

Pub Date: March 29th, 1965
ISBN: 1564782085
Publisher: Simon & Schuster