Although some members of the Third Tuesday Book Club felt that The Reservoir bogged down a bit in the middle, most everyone wanted to finish this novel, based on a true story of the drowning death of a young pregnant woman is post-civil war Richmond. Is it suicide or foul play?
The truth turns out to be very difficult to determine.
The author unravels the story through flashbacks, “confessions” and the trial itself which is firmly based in the historical record. As you would expect of characters involved in shady circumstances, they are not terribly likeable. Tommie, accused of Lillian’s murder, certainly has motive and has, at the very least, been a self-serving cad. Lillian’s inconvenient pregnancy is in the way of his social-climbing marriage plans to his boss’s daughter. Lillian seems to have been a victim all of her life, first at the hands of her father, and now finally Tommie. Willie, Tommie’s brother is a decent man, and although he can’t determine the truth anymore than we can, he is bound by blood ties to stand by his brother.
(Spoiler Alert, don’t read further if you don’t want to know!!!)
One of the strength’s of the novel is that we never really know what happened. The reader may find Tommie guilty along with the jury, but, the author lets us decide. He lays out a plausible story and leaves it to us to draw our own conclusions.