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2.96 of 5 stars 2.96  ·  rating details  ·  1,687 ratings  ·  376 reviews

Part love story, part murder mystery, set on the cusp of the Second World War, Russell Banks's newest novel raises dangerous questions about class, politics, art, love, and madness-and explores what happens when two powerful personalities begin to break the rules.

Vanessa Cole is a wild, stunningly beautiful heiress with a scandalous past. But on July 4, 1936, at her fami

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published January 29th 2008 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 2008)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,641)
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Yawn. Melodrama. Bad dialogue. This book wants to be a bad film.
I abandoned this book around p. 50, shortly after Jordan Groves held his would-be-lover’s hand “tightly, but carefully, as if her hand were a small, captured bird, terrified and fragile, struggling to escape his powerful grip without injuring itself.”

Oy vey, people!

As far as I could tell from the preceding pages, this was going to be the story of a vain, fragile asshole falling in love/lust with a vain, arrogant asshole. I understand that the story eventually becomes a kind of murder mystery/w
Jan 31, 2010 mark rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those wanting a good laugh
Shelves: relationships
I am now (January 2010) listening to this novel on cd. I find it entertaining, a good listen. I had forgotten the story (that says something); and in the year and a half since I read it--my knowledge and experience has expanded. For one, I'm reading "The girls who went away," (2006) a non-fiction account of what happened when girls got pregnant out-of-wedlock (what a strange word--wedlock) prior to Roe v. Wade and the social revolutions of the 1970s'; which happens to be the genesis for all that ...more
(1.5 stars)

I hoped to ring in the new year with one of my stalwart favorite authors. Anxious to read his new novel "Lost Memory of Skin", I figured I try to fill in the Banks blanks with a few of his more recent works I'd managed to overlook. I'd been of late fixating on Goodreads cume scores, and "The Reserve"'s measly 2.90 might've been why subconsciously I was ignoring this novel's existence: I didn't want to set myself up for disappointment. Alas, the 2.90 doesn't lie. This pseudo-historical
Stephen Wallant
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.

I don't quite know why I wasn't able to give this a more enthusiastic review. The characters are interesting, the plot is inherently dramatic, I like this period of history, you had a dash of Spanish Civil War and the Hindenburg thrown in, there were family and class conflicts.

And yet, for all that, I either never understood these characters well enough or sympathized with them enough to give me that deeply satisfied connection that I look for in a book about dramas of the heart.

The lead charact
goodreaders seem to be down on this book, as do editorial reviewers (i've actually checked only the two reviews published on, which i assume must be the best). i can see why, but me, i'm not down on it. i've given it three stars because i don't think it's that special, and i don't care for the story much, but it's a good book about something important, and it's beautifully and captivatingly written.

goodreaders seem to be down, in particular, on the language of this book, but it seems
Alex Templeton
In a way, a disappointment, even though I can't say I didn't enjoy the book. Banks is one of my favorite writers (and the author of one of my all-time favorites, "The Sweet Hereafter"), a writer with a simple style filled with calm authority and devastating conclusions that kind of sneak up on you. This seemed to be an experimental novel in its way--a noir story about a femme fatale up in the NY Adirondacks during the mid 1930's--and is written in a style that I wouldn't have attributed to its a ...more
Ron Charles
Russell Banks is turning down the heat. His most recent novels -- released to wide critical and popular acclaim -- were fiery tales of revolution: Cloudsplitter (1998) told the explosive story of abolition terrorist John Brown, and The Darling (2004) raced us through the sprawling horrors of Liberia's modern-day civil war. But with The Reserve Banks has narrowed his scope dramatically, returning to the smaller scale of his earlier fiction, even the compressed time frame of his fine short stories ...more
Call it 2.5 stars. I mean, Russell Banks will always be readable, but this one seems a little ... contrived, I guess, and the crux of the story, the moment at which everything teeters past the point of no return, would be clichéd and obvious in a second-rate movie, let alone a novel by one of America's greatest authors. There's a hint of T.C. Boyle's creeping dread in this story of a philandering artist, his philandering wife, the backwoods guide she loves, and the is-she-or-isn't-she-crazy heir ...more
Part love story, part murder mystery, Russell Banks’s The Reserve is as gripping as it is beautifully written, set in a pre-WWII world of class, politics, art, love and madness.Vanessa Cole is a stunningly beautiful and wild heiress, her parents’ adopted only daughter. Twice-married, she has been scandalously linked to rich and famous men. On the night of July 4, 1936, inside the Cole family’s remote Adirondack Mountain enclave, known as the Reserve, Vanessa will lose her father to a heart attac ...more
Sue Bridehead (A Pseudonym)
This is not the greatest book in the world, and it's definitely melodrama. But the writing is decent and I learned a bit more about the social history of my favorite part of the U.S. (the Adirondacks region), so for me, it was worth the effort.

I really like this passage, on page 99 of the P.S. edition:

"Vanessa was well aware that she had done a terrible, probably irreversible thing. But she had done terrible, irreversible things in the past, and the consequences had not been fatal or even life-t
The Reserve is hailed as “love story, part murder-mystery, set on the cusp of the second world war” as claimed by the book jacket. I had already read and loved Banks’ Cloudsplitter, so I was eager to read another book by the author. The story opened with the arrogant Jordan Banks, architect, visiting the wealthy Cole family in their Adirondack home. The characters bored me, quite frankly, and the storyline didn’t even give me the slightest interest until page 82, when we find out that Vanessa Co ...more
When I started reading this book, I had no idea where it was going to take me. It totally surprised me. I love Russell Banks' descriptive writing. I could vividly picture the settings in the Adirondacks. This book turned out to be suspenseful and another hard to put down book with interesting characters and plot.
Given that Russell Banks is one of my favorite authors, this book was a disappointment. So many great elements: class, history, mental illness, strong interesting characters - even brief connections to Hemingway and John Dos Passos. What could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, it just didn't come together in a way that seemed equal to all of it's parts. I've noticed that many other reviewers on Goodreads had the same reaction.

My favorites by Russell Banks are: Affliction, The Sweet Hereafter and
I am a big fan of this writer and have always enjoyed cracking open one of his books. This departs a little from the territory of his finest works (such as "Affliction" and "Continental Drift"), and takes us into the past, although he has done that in other works as well. This contains some melodramatic elements, and references to artists and writers of the 1930s (such as John Dos Passos, who is a friend of one of the characters, but does not actually make an appearance). For the most part, it i ...more
This is the third Russell Banks' book I've read this year, and like others, I was disappointed in it. Many other reviewers have commented on the soap opera plot and overall lack of likable characters. It wasn't until the very last pages that I realized what was fundamentally wrong with the story: it's telling that Banks ends the book from the perspectives of Alicia and Hubert, because it is with them that the story should have started. Instead of a story about a carelessly rich woman and her pai ...more
Michael Nye
I've read several of Banks's books, including The Sweet Hereafter and Affliction, which are terrific character studies and narratively complex. I had high hopes for The Reserve, a story set in the 1930s about an artist (Jordan Groves) and a dangerous socialite (Vanessa Cole) whose worlds collide in upstate New York.

This is a bad book. Banks is a terrific writer, but you wouldn't know it from the tinny dialogue that is clunky, awkward, and serves as exposition ("Here's why I did it, Jordan!") for
Mr. Banks's novel of the U.S. in the Great Depression is well written, has a plot structure that captures the reader's interest and captivating characters. But, I am of the opinion that the story line is too repetitious, the characters overdrawn almost to the point of characature and too much irony and classical tragedy. The gap between the privilegded and the towns people is a chasm that the well born and well to do care little about ameleorating. Add to this mix an emotionally unbalanced daugh ...more
As I was putting books away at the library I saw this book on the shelf and thought I love the cover. So I read the jacket and thought I love that time period and I do like a book with a little mystery, so I checked it out to read it. And the book did have me wondering and got me thinking something big is going to happen, but then it fell flat for me. I was rather bored with the story of all the love triangles. I didn't like the artist at all. I didn't feel anything for any of the characters. Yo ...more
I thought it was an interesting book, though the back and forth was a little confusing until the end.
If you can get past the first third of this book, it is not that bad. But the two characters who dominate the first chapters are so despicable and the story is so boring that I do not doubt that many readers give up. I know I almost did. But then, suddenly, in a single sentence, everything changes and the (new) characters are not so awful, and the story really picks up.

Let me put it this way, if you hated Peter Heller's protagonist in The Painter, you will hate this book as well.

Russell Banks is a good, serious writer, which raises the interesting question of how he could have written a book as disappointing and unpersuasive as his novel, The Reserve.

The Reserve is large tract of forest, lakes, and mountains controlled by very wealthy families who are, by the 1930s , in their third generation of entitlement, living the lodge and golf and fishing life in the heart of the Adirondacks.

Such places exist around the country; sometimes they are whole islands; at other times th
As many people who have reviewed this book have already stated, this book was a bit of a let down. This was my first exposure to Russell Banks outside of a few clips I had read here and there, so my expectations were very high. The book's description led me to believe that I was in for an action-packed ride full of intrigue, romance, etc. Naturally, I was very excited.

While I do agree with a lot of the other reviewers here that extol the richness of Banks's description of the Adirondacks and in
The setting is the Adirondack wilderness of NY on a private reserve set aside for only the wealthiest folks. Time period between the world wars. We have Dr. & Mrs. Cole with their grown daughter Vanessa. The story starts with the introduction of "the artist" Jordan Groves who Dr. Cole has invited up to his reserve home "Rangeview" to see his art. There's class struggle, love stories, murder, and secrets that never seem to be fully revealed.

Jordan would be considered a rabble rouser in today'
This is a book of adultery. A subject I find to be annoying at best. Jordon Groves is a famous artist and he is drawn to Vanessa Von Heidenstamm, the gorgeous, rich, unstable divorcee. Groves is married to Alicia who is having an affair on the side. Groves is tempted at every turn to have an affair with Vanessa, and despite having many affairs in the past, resists.

The Reserve, which the book is named after is an area in the Adirondacks that was set aside and preserved. Wealthy landowners came th
Beth Evans
This was my first Russell Banks, but I will be on the lookout for more of his work. I was immediately hooked by his description of the Adirondack lake at sunset, since the Adirondacks are home turf for me. I loved all of his narratives about the place and the outsider v. local mentality, which I thought rang quite true. However, the characters were less well drawn than their surroundings. All of the main characters were a bit over the top, a bit too much. I would have liked a little more of the ...more
I finished this book a couple of nights ago. This relatively short book engaged me from the get-go. I am always amazed that some authors are able to fully portray characters and actions with so many fewer words than others. In the hands of John Irving or Jodi Picoult, this book would probably have been 500 + pages.

While the Depression has an effect on the story, it is not a major part of this novel. I really liked the way that Banks's writing was evocative of a book written during the 30s.

I mu
Apr 14, 2008 Ginny rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery, romantic
Recommended to Ginny by: heard it reviewed on public radio
I chose this book because the setting is the Adirondacks. I would love to visit there again and enjoyed all of the description in this novel. The characters came alive for me, but it was hard to understand what was true and what was not true. I'd like to see the movie and read the expressions on their faces. At the end of the story Vanessa says, "Secrets. Secrets kept from me and secrets I've kept from everyone else. Secrets aren't like lies. They're more like brain surgery. They kill your soul. ...more
This book did not satisfy me, but I'm putting the blame on myself and my expectations. The author writes about his milieu gracefully. He draws dark complex characters with wrinkles and flaws. My problem is the author tells us too much about each of his characters, and he telescopes the plot to an unnecessary degree. It is as if you've been given a truly lovely gift, but the presenter told you every single detail about the gift long before you removed the wrapping.

If you can overlook what I've m
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Russell Banks is a member of the International Parliament of Writers and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous international prizes and awards. He has written fiction, and more recently, non-fiction, with Dreaming up America. His main works include the novels Continental Drift, Rule of the Bone, Cloudsplit ...more
More about Russell Banks...
Rule of the Bone The Sweet Hereafter Lost Memory of Skin Cloudsplitter Affliction

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