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Part love story, part murder mystery, set on the cusp of the Second World War, Russell Banks's sharp-witted and deeply engaging new novel raises dangerous questions about class, politics, art, love, and madness—and explores what happens when two powerful personalities, trapped at opposite ends of a social divide, begin to break the rules.

Twenty-nine-year-old Vanessa Cole is a wild, stunningly beautiful heiress, the adopted only child of a highly regarded New York brain surgeon and his socialite wife. Twice married, Vanessa has been scandalously linked to any number of rich and famous men. But on the night of July 4, 1936, at her parents' country home in a remote Adirondack Mountain enclave known as The Reserve, two events coincide to permanently alter the course of Vanessa's callow life: her father dies suddenly of a heart attack, and a mysteriously seductive local artist, Jordan Groves, blithely lands his Waco biplane in the pristine waters of the forbidden Upper Lake. . . .

Jordan's reputation has preceded him; he is internationally known as much for his exploits and conquests as for his paintings themselves, and, here in the midst of the Great Depression, his leftist loyalties seem suspiciously undercut by his wealth and elite clientele. But for all his worldly swagger, Jordan is as staggered by Vanessa's beauty and charm as she is by his defiant independence. He falls easy prey to her electrifying personality, but it is not long before he discovers that the heiress carries a dark, deeply scarring family secret. Emotionally unstable from the start, and further unhinged by her father's unexpected death, Vanessa begins to spin wildly out of control, manipulating and destroying the lives of all who cross her path.

Moving from the secluded beauty of the Adirondack wilderness to the skies above war-torn Spain and Fascist Germany, The Reserve is a clever, incisive, and passionately romantic novel of suspense that adds a new dimension to this acclaimed author's extraordinary repertoire.

Topics: World War II and Family

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780061809583
List price: $10.99
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I'm still not sure what to say about this book. I wasn't expecting it to be so much of a soap opera, but ... well, that's what it is. What's really making it difficult to evaluate, however, is that it feels so incomplete. The flash forwards tell the eventual fates of two of the characters, but leaves two others shrouded in mystery. But even in the case of the characters whose lives are given a final punctuation, I felt as though a lot was left unexplored.

I can't help but wonder if Banks decided he wanted to write a trashy novel, but in the end couldn't commit to it.more
I had never read Russell Banks before and I definitely should not have started with this title. It was full of trite dialog and had a preposterous plot, replete with characters which were more caricatures than real people. I only read it because I have a connection to the real reserve which is not like the one in this book.more
Read all 12 reviews

Reviews

I'm still not sure what to say about this book. I wasn't expecting it to be so much of a soap opera, but ... well, that's what it is. What's really making it difficult to evaluate, however, is that it feels so incomplete. The flash forwards tell the eventual fates of two of the characters, but leaves two others shrouded in mystery. But even in the case of the characters whose lives are given a final punctuation, I felt as though a lot was left unexplored.

I can't help but wonder if Banks decided he wanted to write a trashy novel, but in the end couldn't commit to it.more
I had never read Russell Banks before and I definitely should not have started with this title. It was full of trite dialog and had a preposterous plot, replete with characters which were more caricatures than real people. I only read it because I have a connection to the real reserve which is not like the one in this book.more
Set in the 1930s, this is a story of multiple deceptions, class distinctions, madness, possible pedophilia, and two very strong personalities. It would make a good movie, but the book itself isn't as engrossing as the subject matter would indicate. The descriptive passages of the reserve were, for me, too long and too intricate.more
I did not enjoy this one as much as the other Banks' books that I have read - including Continental Drift, Rule of the Bone, and Story of Jamaica. But, I enjoyed the Adirondack setting, having lived in Plattsburgh years ago and hiked the high peaks often.more
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