Booklist Reviews 2007 November #1
Set for the most part in the Adirondacks in 1936, Banks' latest novel is a tale of simmering passions, class tensions, and maybe even murder. Vanessa Cole, a beautiful socialite and adoptive daughter of a well-to-do doctor, has been known to flirt with both Hemingway and madness but now sets her sights on the local leftist artist and adventurer pilot Jordan Groves. He is explicably allured by her, even knowing that she is the type of woman to challenge his careful distinction between love and sex among his numerous affairs. After Vanessa's father dies and her mother tries to send her off to Europe for "treatment"—which Vanessa fears might include the new rage of lobotomization—she panics and does something unfortunately, and fatally, drastic. Banks' gorgeous, vivid prose feels wasted on mostly limpid characters, and the slight, concurrent narrative that takes place the following year involving the Spanish civil war and the Hindenburg zeppelin is more interesting than the love story, but it feels tacked on to lend some historical import. This ultimately reads like a fascinating setup for a grand, passionate novel that, sadly, just isn't there. Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2007 October #2
Even as she snares a rich if leftish artist, incorrigible heiress Vanessa Cole starts spinning out of control. With a nine-city tour; reading group guide. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
LJ Reviews 2007 December #1
It all begins on July 4, 1936, in the achingly beautiful and unspoiled Adirondack Mountains, where the wealthy built their summer retreats. Vanessa Cole is one of the lucky ones: her family inherited land on "the Reserve" before the implementation of building restrictions, and as such, it owns a secluded lodge that can be reached only by boat and plane. On that July night, Vanessa's father invites local artist Jordan Groves to the lodge to see his art collection, but it's the meeting between Jordan and Vanessa that will show just how destructive this seclusion and sense of privilege can be. Known for his complex and conflicted characters, Banks (Rule of the Bone ) here reveals how the mentally unbalanced Vanessa and Jordan, a wealthy, married socialist, are attracted to these contradictions in each other. The plot gets off to a slow start, but the breathtaking scenic descriptions create a setting central to the story. As the chain of events builds to an inevitable and tragic conclusion, we are left with the feeling that no one, not even the well-to-do, can escape the laws of nature. Recommended for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/07.]—Kellie Gillespie, City of Mesa Lib., AZ[Page 97]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
PW Reviews 2007 November #4
Reviewed by Scott Turow
Like Banks's two most recent novels—Cloudsplitter , a 1998 book about the abolitionist John Brown, and The Darling , about the wages of '60s radicalism—The Reserve looks backward, this time to the 1930s. The reserve of the title is an Adirondack preserve, a membership-only sanctuary where the very rich partake of woodland leisure, hunting, fishing, dining, drinking, utterly remote from the anxiety and want that most Americans experienced in 1936. Jordan Groves, a noted artist and illustrator, makes his life literally and figuratively at the border of the property, along with his wife, Alicia, and two sons, Bear and Wolf.
In a note that accompanies the advance reader's copy of the book, Banks says he was drawn back imaginatively to the world of his parents. But this novel is not merely an homage to the class-riven universe of the Depression but also to the way it was portrayed in its own time. Some plot elements nod in the direction of Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night . Much more clearly, the ghost of Ernest Hemingway, who is even an offstage character, treads the pages of The Reserve and leaves his tracks. Banks acknowledges that Jordan Groves is loosely based on the real-life Adirondacks artist, Rockwell Kent, but Groves, as Banks creates him, is a man in the Hemingway mold, whose first name seems to acknowledge Hemingway's quintessential hero, Robert Jordan in For Whom The Bell Tolls . Jordan Groves is a man's man, flying his airplane daringly around the Adirondacks and trekking the world in search of imagery and lovers. As is true of all the characters in this novel—and in Hemingway's—Groves is a person utterly without any sense of irony about himself, and thus any awareness of the degree to which he is a creature of what he claims to despise.
Groves's unrecognized conflicts are forced into consciousness through the agency of Vanessa Cole, the twice-divorced adopted daughter of one of the Reserve's member families. Free of her last husband, a European nobleman whom she calls in her own mind Count No-Count, Vanessa is an alluring and determined seductress who sets her sights on Groves in the book's initial chapter. Death, adultery and homicide follow, shattering each of the would-be lovers' families.
This is a vividly imagined book. It has the romantic atmosphere of those great 1930s tales in film and prose, and it speeds the reader along from its first pages. In fact, Banks talents are so large—and the novel so fundamentally engaging—that it continued to pull me in even when, in its climactic moments, I could no longer comprehend why the characters were doing what they were doing. By then, the denouement has been determined largely by the literary expectations of a bygone era where character flaws require a tragic end. Despite that, The Reserve is a pleasure well worth savoring. (Feb.)
Scott Turow is at work on a sequel to Presumed Innocent.[Page 26]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.