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The latest offering from Banks (The Wasp Factory) gives a scion's-eye view of an eccentric, splintering Scottish business family. Having secured immense wealth via the Empire! board game (invented by a relative in 1880) and its various offshoots, the Wopuld family must now decide whether to sell the company: the American Spraint Corporation wants Empire! as a jewel in its crown. As the family gathers to celebrate matriarch Grandma Win's 80th birthday and have a board meeting, Win dispatches grandson Fielding to find his cousin Alban, who has fled the family to become a forester, in order to solidify her vision of the family legacy. Banks flashes back through Alban's painful memories of his mother (who committed suicide) and his cousin Sophie (whom he loved) as he heads home. The book contains a plethora of family secrets, none of which fully drive the plot, but the gothic setting, big passions and light humor suffice. Bank's 23rd book isn't his best, but it carries one all the way up its craggy steeps. (Oct.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
The Wopuld family has grown wealthy over the last century with earnings from a board game called Empire! Alban Wopuld divested himself of family and most of his shares in the company after working for the corporation for some time. When an American company proposes to buy the family name and game, Alban's cousin Fielding tracks him down in Scotland and asks Alban to help convince the rest of the family to reject the offer. Alban reluctantly agrees and returns to the family estate, Garbadale, where he is forced to confront two painful episodes in his life. When his grandmother at last reveals a series of family secrets, Alban's issues are resolved and his life changed forever. Banks, a best-selling author in Britain, presents another strong work. His many-layered family characters are credibly drawn, and the underlying mystery tantalizes the reader throughout. Recommended.-Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Coll. of Continuing Education Lib., Providence Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.