Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Reserve by Russell Banks - Book Review

           As far as contemporary literature goes, one of my favorite novels that was unforgettable was Affliction by Russell Banks. I would say that his short story, Lobster Night, was a very powerful story as well. Both stories had memorable characters. 

            The backdrop for The Reserve is right before WWII. The book is supposed to be both a love story and a murder mystery. I think that today a murder mystery is open to a very wide interpretation. Yes, a murder takes place, but to me, no mystery has occurred. Then again, Lobster night won an award for being one of the best American Murder Mysteries in 2001. 

              Yes, the story is about two very powerful characters, Jordon Groves and Vanessa Cole. Jordan is a pilot and an artist. Vanessa Cole is the daughter who is part of a rich family. 

              I’m not sure why Banks feels he has to set this book before WWII or have it set at a place called The Reserve. I think it’s interesting that he tries to blend history and historic characters in the book but he didn’t do this in Affliction and I don’t see the reason to do this here. 

              If anything, I thought that Vanessa Cole represented a very important character that is part of the news today, which is families dealing with mental illness. The plot is great around that with the tension seeming to grow as to whether Vanessa will be able to seduce Jordan although that seems to lose some impact since there is another story blended in with Jordan’s wife. I guess that made it somewhat confusing because Jordan said that he couldn’t be at The Reserve at one point and I really couldn’t understand why. 

              With that, Banks finds a great way to blend the characters together along with Vanessa, who’s illness has reached it’s pique and continues to destroy her relationship with her mother and her father. It’s a great book in that it’s character driven and takes the reader through many twists and turns. 

             Banks is a superb writer but I had trouble enjoying this story because there were too many characters in the story and the focus and point of view seemed to switch to several characters too many times. I would have been satisfied if the story took place as a modern story like Affliction and the focus would have been on Jordon Groves and Vanessa Cole. 

               I have read Gone Girl and Sharp Objects since posting this review and I have to say that if you want to read a book about a dark character who is a woman that would be in a Gillian Flynn book, then you should check out Vanessa Cole. As far as I'm concerned, she's too dark for me and I would still give this book 3 stars. 

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