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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Hello! Please feel free to discuss the novel Serena by Ron Rash in this thread.

The original thread is here.

seanat (elka) Afraid i didn't know much about this book before I picked it up, except that it was being talked about, so it took me a while to realise that Serena was not going to be a heroine of any sort.

Much is made of the opening paragraphs and it certainly was no let down. I was pulled straight in to wonder who was who, their relationships and how brutal existence out there was. A place where normal rules of law and society just didn't apply. It's quite a masculine book in a way, life has little value and to work is to take your life in your hands.
Only the strong survive, and to show any weakness or make an error is often fatal.

Enjoyed the battle between Pembletons logging company and the pro-National Park people. I alternated regularly as to who I thought had 'right', the need for the working class to have jobs in a recession versus the protection of the natural environment and nature.

I found Serena a hard character to understand, too cool and I never really felt I got to grips with her and her past. Comparisons with Lady Macbeth are certainly justified, although Serena seemed to suffer no pangs of conscience or guilt.

I enjoyed the ending, it seemed very in character although I would have preferred it without the 'coda', it tied things up a little too nicely for me.

Renata I loved this book - it's probably my favorite read this year. Serena was definitely an enigma. I really wanted to know what her past was like, but not knowing just made her more fascinating. I agree, Liz, that the Coda was a bit too tidy, but I was actually glad to have it come full circle.

Anne I must start by saying how much I enjoyed this book. This isn’t a setting I’ve come across before, but having “done” the National Parks on a US trip I know a little of the history of conserving natural beauty versus the need for economic survival. What a vividly drawn hostile environment – by the time I was halfway through, I felt exhausted from battling the elements and slogging through the mud. For me, the setting was undoubtedly the star of the book.

Serena was a magnificent figure, a total caricature really, riding tall with her eagle on the saddle – as Liz said, Lady Macbeth but without any conscience. Pemberton was very much a cardboard cut out, a puppet with her pulling the strings – but I liked the touches of humanity that sometimes emerged. The sections that really stuck with me though were the interludes with the workers – all were well drawn, and they really did remind me of the minor characters in Shakespearean tragedy. There were times I thought the Shakespeare/Macbeth parallels might be going too far – but I think it stayed the right side of the line.

I could’ve done without the coda too – not really necessary.

And it must be a film in time, surely?!

Anne I'm really in two minds about the book. On the whole I enjoyed the storyline - I do like a nasty lead character now and again, but I felt the middle of the book dragged.
I didnt enjoy the politics at all, and got very muddled up by the characters involved in it, at times forgetting who was on which side.
The opening and the ending though were fabulous - very well written and extremely page turning.
The book has certainly made an impression on me - I'll return to read further comments.

seanat (elka) Actually I do agree with Anne, the middle lagged a little for me too. For a while the book did seem to focus more on the politics and the minor characters than on Pembleton and Serena and my mind did start roam a few times. I often read with the children watching tv or running around so am not always able to give a book the concentration it needs and did occasionally get confused by the amount of male minor characters.

Yet this book has really stayed with me, I can still picture the setting, mood and main characters and that's no mean feat when you read 15 odd books a month!
Like Annie I can definately see this as a movie.

message 7: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 03, 2009 02:37AM) (new)

There is definitely a movie in the works, but it's just in the early stages, I think!

Some of my favourite parts were the day-to-day lives of the loggers.

And here is a question we can all discuss:

From the opening scene when he arrives in Waynesville and dispatches Harmon, Pemberton is in control of nearly everyone and everything he surveys. Considering his lifelong position of authority and control through economic and physical violence, why do you think he was blind to Serena’s intentions in the end? Does the conclusion change your feelings about Pemberton? Why or why not?

Anne I think that's known as killing the discussion! I'm sorry, that's a bit of an essay question and these days I read for pleasure only. I'd agree on your first point though, it was the day-to-day lives of the loggers I enjoyed and their chorus-like conversations. And I'm with Liz, the book stayed in the mind after reading which is no mean feat these days...

seanat (elka) Yes I can't answer that either, a bit too academic for me. Must say it did irritate me a bit how he sat back and allowed her to take control especially regarding the baby. Never really understood why he stopped feeling that he was her equal.

message 10: by Caroline (last edited Aug 15, 2009 02:13AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Caroline I didn't realise this had started, sorry.
Over all I really enjoyed the novel, the plot was slow building and it wasn't a book to rush through. The latter part of the book speeded up and was quite gripping.
I loved the setting instantly, and like a few of you enjoyed reading about the loggers(and their little converstaions) the most. I also warmed to Rachel's character very quickly and as the story progressed worried about her safety. I did find at times with the characters involved with the National Park and several characters within the logging camp it was difficult at times to remember who was who but I just went with the flow after a bit.
I don't know what to say about Serena, I suppose I found her behaviour quite cold and shocking at first and thought Pemberton was in awe of her power.
I've picked my husband's brain about the above question as he has just finished it. His view is Pemberton regarded her not just as his equal but was actually superior to him. Perhaps he thought she would never want to kill him because he was convinced they operated as a single unit, Pemberton was more gullible than he first appeared.

Thanks again for sending it.

Maggie Robb I started to read Serena with such enthusiam due to your readers comments. Re... a film. Yes with Charleze Theron in the lead. The opening paragraph is a work of art and I hope it is sustainable to the very last word. Good night now and get your copy without delay. Maggie

message 12: by Anne (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anne Ooh no, not Charlize Theron! Nicole Kidman I thought...

Beth I read it. Here's my review.

Serena is married to Pemberton, co-owner of a lumber company, in 1929 North Carolina. From the start, you will see that the two deserve each other; they are both ruthlessly ambitious. Eventually you will see that Serena is much more than ruthless, and Pemberton, as mean as he is, didn't know what he got himself into.

Although Serena’s heartlessness is obvious to the reader, other aspects of this character are mysteries. For example, of her past we know only that she grew up out West with her father, also owner of a lumber company. After he died, she burned down their house and moved to Boston. That’s it.

Throughout the book Serena is mysterious. I expected answers to the mysteries, but that’s not Rash’s style.

For some reason, another character is often overlooked in most other reviews of this book: Rachel. Rachel is a former kitchen worker for the lumber company. She is also the sixteen-year-old who Pemberton impregnated, then left to fend for herself after he killed her father.

Rash writes beautifully and that may keep you reading long enough to see that SERENA is American literature. But this literature has the problem I find with several other books of literature: it lacks enough story, at least in the first 200 pages. Throughout the book, Rash describes characters and scenery so well, but he doesn’t do much with plot until after a couple hundred pages.

However, please DO STICK WITH IT. There IS plot as well as character development. It is an excellent story, and it DOES get unputdownable.

The end was no surprise to me, though; I expected it. But I didn't expect that to be the end. I wanted the story to continue. Good books end too soon.

message 14: by William (last edited Aug 23, 2013 04:50AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

William Annie wrote: "Ooh no, not Charlize Theron! Nicole Kidman I thought..."

Both good choices I should think, but Jennifer Lawrence is playing the lead I believe. Theron and Kidman are too old to play Serena who is in her mid-twenties.

message 15: by Leo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Leo W. If you like Serena, try The Clearing -- set in a LA logging camp and has much the same feel.

William Leobuss wrote: "If you like Serena, try The Clearing -- set in a LA logging camp and has much the same feel."


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