Banks is one of America’s finest novelists, but this oddly distanced work lacks the passionate personal engagement of a...

READ REVIEW

THE RESERVE

A left-wing artist tangles with a troubled heiress in this characteristically somber, class-conscious novel from Banks (The Darling, 2004, etc.).

On the evening of July 4, 1936, at their luxurious summer camp in a privately owned Adirondacks wilderness reserve, Carter and Evelyn Cole get a visit from Jordan Groves, a Rockwell Kent–like creator of woodcuts, prints and etchings. Though Jordan’s a notorious Red who has little use for people like the Coles (he’s there to look at some paintings), it’s hard for this inveterate womanizer to resist the attentions of their beautiful daughter Vanessa, twice-divorced veteran of many scandalous love affairs. She is also, Banks reveals not long into the narrative (with a shockingly unexpected image of Evelyn Cole bound and gagged by her daughter), quite crazy. After Dr. Cole has a fatal heart attack the night of Jordan’s visit, Vanessa becomes convinced (not without reason) that her mother plans to have her committed once again to a discreet Swiss asylum. So Vanessa ties up Mom and implausibly manages to enlist the help of Hubert St. Germain, one of the many locals whose ill-paid seasonal work comes from serving the summer people. Hubert is also the lover of Jordan’s discontented wife Alicia, and learning of their affair drives the artist into Vanessa’s arms—though not before her mother has been disposed of in a shotgun accident. Dark hints that Dr. Cole sexually abused Vanessa have been freely scattered, but also cast into serious doubt. A catastrophic fire covers up the evidence of Evelyn’s demise, and Hubert gets off scot-free despite having confessed his involvement to the odious manager of the Reserve’s country club. Jordan and Vanessa meet their separate just deserts in ends that owe more to history (the Hindenburg crash, the Spanish Civil War) than the author’s imagination.

Banks is one of America’s finest novelists, but this oddly distanced work lacks the passionate personal engagement of a masterpiece like Continental Drift (1985) or the bracing historical revisionism of Cloudsplitter (1998).

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-143025-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2007

Did you like this book?

A promising debut that’s awake to emotional, political, and cultural tensions across time and continents.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

  • New York Times Bestseller

HOMEGOING

A novel of sharply drawn character studies immersed in more than 250 hard, transformative years in the African-American diaspora.

Gyasi’s debut novel opens in the mid-1700s in what is now Ghana, as tribal rivalries are exploited by British and Dutch colonists and slave traders. The daughter of one tribal leader marries a British man for financial expediency, then learns that the “castle” he governs is a holding dungeon for slaves. (When she asks what’s held there, she’s told “cargo.”) The narrative soon alternates chapters between the Ghanans and their American descendants up through the present day. On either side of the Atlantic, the tale is often one of racism, degradation, and loss: a slave on an Alabama plantation is whipped “until the blood on the ground is high enough to bathe a baby”; a freedman in Baltimore fears being sent back South with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act; a Ghanan woman is driven mad from the abuse of a missionary and her husband’s injury in a tribal war; a woman in Harlem is increasingly distanced from (and then humiliated by) her husband, who passes as white. Gyasi is a deeply empathetic writer, and each of the novel’s 14 chapters is a savvy character portrait that reveals the impact of racism from multiple perspectives. It lacks the sweep that its premise implies, though: while the characters share a bloodline, and a gold-flecked stone appears throughout the book as a symbolic connector, the novel is more a well-made linked story collection than a complex epic. Yet Gyasi plainly has the talent to pull that off: “I will be my own nation,” one woman tells a British suitor early on, and the author understands both the necessity of that defiance and how hard it is to follow through on it.

A promising debut that’s awake to emotional, political, and cultural tensions across time and continents.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-94713-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Award Finalist

  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more