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The Reserve

liked it 3.00  ·  Rating details ·  2,126 ratings  ·  429 reviews
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 i
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published January 29th 2008 by Harper
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liked it Average rating 3.00  · 
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Jun 05, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-in-2010, gave-up
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 03, 2009 rated it did not like it
Yawn. Melodrama. Bad dialogue. This book wants to be a bad film.
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was ok
(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
Mar 25, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 09, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Jul 08, 2009 rated it liked it

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
Stephen Wallant
Jun 23, 2012 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Jul 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 29, 2009 rated it did not like it
First, I should say that I was blown away by Cloudsplitter. It was the kind of book where I had to sit silently for an hour or so after I finished it, just to take it all in. So I picked up The Reserve expecting it to be at least average.
The kindest word to describe this book is sophomoric. Banks takes an Ayn Rand-ish approach to his two protagonists. Of course, they're ultra-wealthy. They have unspeakable animal charisma, an innate and timeless style, and an effortless physical grace and beaut
Alex Templeton
Mar 01, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Mar 13, 2009 rated it did not like it
Ok, I'll admit it. Even though I have hardly ever done this before, I quit more than half way and gave up. I have done this less than a handful of times before. Why? I'm getting too old to read sub-par books where the author is describing cardboard characters that I simply have no sympathy for. The whole plot seemed so contrived and unoriginal. Like he was trying way too hard. He writes beautifully, but it wasn't enough to pull me through.
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
Nov 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Aug 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
Jeez what a tortuous load of bollocks.
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
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
Aug 02, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Historical fiction that though touted as a murder mystery, is more of a love story. A number of loves. Pre-WWII, The Reserve brings to life some brilliant characters -- Vanessa Cole, a wild beautiful heiress, Jordan Groves - handsome artist and family man, Hubert St. Germain - steadfast Adirondack guide, Alicia Groves - neglected wife and mother. The setting, though, is what sets this book apart. The Reserve is an exclusive get-away for members only in the rugged wilderness. Locals work at menia ...more
Russell King
Feb 01, 2016 rated it did not like it
I am embarrassed to say that I read this book but it was the fourth and last book I took on vacation and for the lack of anything else, I read it. I bought it at Barnes and Noble sale table thinking it was a book by Dennis Banks, an American Indian activist, about an Indian reserve. I did not read the cover and learned to not miss that step in the future.
Anyway, this book was a love interest book that has no redeeming features, the story is poor, the writing is terrible, a total waste. The surp
Jul 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
I thought it was an interesting book, though the back and forth was a little confusing until the end.
Mary Rebecca
May 02, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
I picked up this book from the free book exchange shelf at the Goose Berry Patch restaurant in Penrose, CO, summer of 2019. I liked the cover: 30's automobile parked, biplane coming in for a landing, beautiful woman lying in the grass, handsome man sitting up speaking earnestly to her--both their hats on the ground. I'm sorry this is not the image goodreads has selected for this review.

I also picked the book, and this is totally embarrassing to admit, because I wanted to straighten out my confus
May 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Although stylistically strong and beautifully written, "The Reserve" ultimately disappoints as both murder mystery and love story. The book is set in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York in a private camp called "The Reserve". The year is 1936. Upon initial encounter, the atmosphere is electric between the wildly erratic (perhaps nymphomaniac) heiress Vanessa Cole and the local but acclaimed artist and sometime pilot, Jordan Groves. After Vanessa's doctor father suddenly dies of a heart ...more
Diane Ferbrache
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I had heard of Russell Banks, but don't remember reading any of his books. I picked this one up at a used bookstore and really enjoyed it. His writing is just beautiful -- so much so that I frequently re-read sentences & paragraphs just to experience them again.

This is a story that's somewhat reminiscent of The Great Gatsby -- super-wealthy part-time residents of "The Reserve" live a life far different from the locals who are employed as fishing/hunting guides and servants. The focus is on a you
Jack Bates
Well, I don't know. There's some lovely nature writing in this and it's generally well-written and plotted and everything, but you know, I've started thinking about what makes something literary fiction and sometimes at least it's 'because a man wrote it'. It's not that I didn't enjoy it - the characters, of Jordan and Vanessa especially, while annoying, are convincing enough, and I imagine they're supposed to be annoying. The period detail, the class commentary, all of that is fine, but I still ...more
Mar 14, 2020 rated it liked it
The passages discussing the Adirondacks are lovely, and at times this book reminded me a bit of Wallace Stegner. There is a wonderful, accurate, and troubling brief discussion of the undermining of the independent "yeomen and yeowomen" as the wealth gap grew in the 20s and 30s ... surely it could be written today. But the characters are too one dimensional; they almost seem like cartoons. Leftist self-indulgent & self-absorbed artist. Beautiful high strung troubled heiress. Noble Adirondack guid ...more
Jan 31, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
another Kingsolver author recommendation (the one she recommended is >700 pgs. so likely won’t tackle that one)…however, after reading this intriguing novel of characters, the Kingsolver rec. might be worth it. Easy to read, fascinating character development about a naughty socialite and a not so nice painter, who naturally is married. Even the side characters are well developed; hardback via Berea Library, 287 pgs. ...more
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
The lovely setting of New York's Adirondack Mountains and a few eccentric characters sparked my imagination. During the late 1930s a few super rich families enjoyed the wildness of an exclusive reserve. Interspersed with the tale are a couple of mysterious vignettes representative of a different time period. They are never fully melded to the principle narrative. You, the reader, must eventually connect the dots. A most satisfying proposition.
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-challenge
I was surprised to see the low rating of this book. I think Russell Banks tells a good story and I liked the style he used of past and present prose. I did have to go back and figure out the sequence once I finished the book but that, to me, was the fun. The characters were well developed and definitely interesting. I would read more of this author's books.
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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

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