July, 1936. It is the height of the Depression, and the looming threat of Fascism is spreading across Europe. And somewhere high above the Adirondack mountains, beautiful and doomed, floats the vast Hindenburg airship. Vanessa Cole is the stunning debutante daughter of the famous brain surgeon Carter Cole. Notorious for her scandalous affairs with ...
July, 1936. It is the height of the Depression, and the looming threat of Fascism is spreading across Europe. And somewhere high above the Adirondack mountains, beautiful and doomed, floats the vast Hindenburg airship. Vanessa Cole is the stunning debutante daughter of the famous brain surgeon Carter Cole. Notorious for her scandalous affairs with the rich and famous, she has returned to her parents' home in upstate New York after the collapse of her second marriage. Rumours are rife as the family gathers to celebrate the 4th of July at the rustic but elegant Adirondack Camp deep in their privately-owned wilderness, The Reserve. This scene of luxury and privilege is disturbed by the arrival of the internationally famous painter and political radical, Jordan Groves, who brazenly lands his bi-plane on the pristine Second Lake. Groves, celebrated as much for his leftist politics, Hemingwayesque exploits and romantic conquests as for his art, is easy prey for Vanessa Cole's blend of electrifying charm and destructiveness. But in order to protect his two young sons and his marriage, already made fragile by his years of compulsive infidelity, he must try to keep his distance. Especially when it becomes clear that Vanessa carries a deeply scarring family secret. The Reserve explores what happens when powerful personalities from opposite ends of the social spectrum begin to break the rules. Part scandalous love story, part murder mystery, it is a gripping, exhilarating novel from one of America's finest writers.
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Publishers Weekly, 2007-11-26 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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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