- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Orion; New edition edition (17 Mar. 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0752861751
- ISBN-13: 978-0752861753
- Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.6 x 19.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,978,960 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Serenade (CRIME MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 17 Mar 2005
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the story builds to a stunning and complex climax ... how brilliant that a new generation has the chance to discover this compelling writer. (Joanna Hines GUARDIAN) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'Cain has established a formidable reputation of furious pace, harsh and masterful realism, tough, raw speech right out of the mouths of the people' Saturday ReviewSee all Product description
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Top Customer Reviews
This was Cain's third published book, and his second novel (the first book he had published was non-fiction). To perhaps understand this novel better it helps if you know that Cain's mother was herself an opera singer, which obviously gave him an appreciation of good music, and the opera. Indeed in some ways this novel can be seen as operatic in itself.
John Sharp, once a great baritone has gradually lost his singing voice and is washed up in Mexico City. Fallling for the simple Mexican/Indian girl Juana he finds that ultimately being with her not only brings back his voice, but his singing is arguably better than ever before. Running off together, they enter the States, albeit Juana does illegally. From becoming a film star, and then appearing at the Met, John looks as if he has hit the big time. With problems with his Hollywood contract, an old acquaintance, Winston, says he can sort it all out. But has Winston being pulling the strings on John's career?, and what is there past relationship? With Winston reporting Juana to Immigration she does the only thing she knows - fight. With John and her leaving the US, will they be able to build a new life somewhere else?Read more ›
I don't want to 'spoil' by itemising the full list of 'you must be joking' plot twists but there is one scene which is virtually a lift from the Marx Brothers 'A Night at the Opera' and it is just as preposterous in their hands, never mind Mr Cain's.
It was written in 1937 and on this basis we are meant to excuse the vicious, spiteful racism and anti-Mexican vitriol. Using the same rationale we are also meant to accept a 'she was asking for it' defence for a despicable act.
Much has been made of the fact that Cain's mother was an opera singer and he himself failed in that vocation. Once you know this, the story of John Sharp has got to have partly autobiographical undertones. As a novel, it is self-indulgent and a poor effort compared with Mr Cain's other gems.
We follow the tale of John Howard Sharp, an out of work but world class opera singer, he finds himself down to his last few pesos in Mexico when his life becomes entwined with a beautiful local prostitute. Together they carve their way back into the USA where Sharp once again establishes himself as a force within the industry. This all goes well until the man responsible for launching Sharp, the young conductor Winston Hawes, comes back into his life with disastrous consequences.
For it's time I would imagine the novel caused quite a stir and not a lot is held back. Gay relationships and prostitution appear in abundance, and Caine is definitely not someone who constrained by the attitudes of the time.
But, and here is the books downfall for me, I just didn't enjoy it. The other books I have read have always sped along at a really fast pace, and I admired him as an author that wasted no words. However this book for me was the exact opposite. Pages and pages were dedicated to prattling on about various forms of music and the arts. It was almost as if the author was just attempting to put all of his knowledge of Puccinni etc into this book. I have read that Cain's mother was an opera singer so this is obviously where this all stems from. I just couldn't get into the actual storyline itself, which when it did manage to deviate from the theme of 'Art' was actually quite good.
If this had been the first book I had picked by Cain then I am sure it would have been my last, and that really would have been a great shame. Looking at others reviews I can see that I am in the minority, but I can only give my own honest opinion and that is to try something else of his first.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I bought this novel because I had recently seen the 1950's film version. Of course because of the censorship problem then prevalent, they could only use the bare outline of the... Read morePublished on 8 July 2013 by Ken Marshall
Written in 1937, and very much in the style of Raymond Chandler American crime noir, James M. Cain's `Serenade' has just been reissued. Read morePublished on 4 Sept. 2011 by JuliaC