Serena Paperback – 1 Jul 2010
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"A bloody - and bloody brilliant - story of passion and revenge. Terrific" (The Times)
"Bitter and brilliant . . . it could sit comfortably on any bookshelf beside Cormac McCarthy or Charles Frazier . . . the plot moves with precision, beautifully wrought. The author's acute sense of place is evident on every page" (Guardian)
"A stunningly effective novel that is stark, fierce, dramatic and gripping from its unforgettable opening paragraph" (Janet Maslin New York Times, Top Ten Books of 2008)
"It's too hypnotic to break away from. Innocent people are in peril, and calamity seems as unstoppable . . . The final chapter is as flawless and captivating as anything I've read this year" (Washington Post)
"Rash's evocative rendering of the blighted landscape and the tough characters who inhabit it recalls both John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy, while the malignant character of Serena, who projects a "stark unflinching certainty" about her actions, propels his finely paced story" (New Yorker)
"If Serena becomes famous as the basis for a coming Jennifer Lawrence-Bradley Cooper movie, never forget that it began as a fierce, breathtaking book, one of the greatest American novels in recent memory" (New York Times 2013-02-27)
"In an age when literary fiction is so intent on subtlety that it often winds up virtually inert, a novel with this much uncomplicated gusto and narrative drive is a rare thing; in the case of Serena, it's also a welcome one" (Salon)
"A searing tragedy of Shakespearean proportions - or, in simpler terms, a damn good book that will keep you awake far too late and, well after you've finished it, haunt your dreams" (Julia Glass, author of THREE JUNES)
"A gorgeous, brutal novel" (Richard Price, author of LUSH LIFE)
Now a major motion picture starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Rhys Ifans
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Top customer reviews
A compelling read, which I didn't want to put down and which I'm sure will haunt me for a while - on a par with The Little House by Philippa Gregory.
Serena is a monster and the people she lives with and the time she lives in allow her to do monstrous things. I don't think I have ever seen such a well realised and chilling female character since Cathy in "East of Eden". You become aware of her nature long before those around her but when they begin to realise what is happening the tension rises and you see how the lawlessness of the times and the character of the woman have people trapped.
I was gripped by this book - and chilled by it too. The success of the story hangs on the character of Serena and this is excellently done. It is also interesting how the author shows us the destruction of great woodlands for profit and the destruction the logging leaves in its wake as well as the destruction that Serena causes.
This is clever and powerful writing and an interesting insight into a particular historical event.
I enjoyed the loggers' uneducated observations about their bosses, but was less enamored with those bosses themselves. They were such intensely dislikable people (as they were meant to be). He was simply a snobbish product of his time. She, however, was a homicidal psychopath.
All in all, probably a fine read for someone more inclined to enjoy the genre. I read it because my book club chose it this month. It's unlikely I would have picked it up otherwise.
The very first paragraph of the novel (and short story) quickly set the lasting tone: in 1929 a backwoods father waits on the station platform for the arrival of the Pembertons. He is accompanied by his 16 or 17-year old daughter, pregnant by Pemberton, and carries a freshly-honed bowie knife to plunge into Pemberton's heart. After the Pembertons arrive, some words are exchanged, Harmon draws his bowie knife and approaches Pemberton. "'We're settling this now,' Harmon shouted. 'He's right,' Serena said, "Get your knife and settle it now, Pemberton.'" Which Pemberton indeed does. So you immediately see that Serena is no shrinking violet. She's tough--tougher than Pemberton--and brutal--more brutal than Pemberton. People who stand in the Pembertons' way have an unfortunate tendency to die, usually unpleasantly. Sheriff McDowell is the only one who can stand up to the Pembertons, and this is only because of toleration on the Pembertons' part. Logging during the Depression is hard and dangerous work: accidents, debilitating and fatal, are all too common, and there is always a group looking for work, for whom accidents to the logging crews mean possible job openings. There's the frightening Galloway, who does Serena's bidding and who brings death in his wake. For some authors, carefully-drawn characters are rare (usually compensated for with action). But with Rash, even unimportant people are carefully drawn. You feel as if you've come to know people well--you may not like them, but you know them.
There are two other Southern writers that this novel brings to mind. First is Cormac Mccarthy. Some of Mccarthy's works have the same lyrical dark depth that Serena has, particularly the brooding Child of God. Child of God has a wonderful phrase in it "The provinces of night" which was used as the title of a novel that the second writer used. William Gay's novels have the same dark nature that Child of God and Serena have. All three authors have a lyrical quality to their writing, an ease with words and phrases. "Southern Gothic" might describe their work. Serena is a strong work indeed, and one that you'll look forward to rereading.
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