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Serena by Ron Rash
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Serena (2008)

by Ron Rash

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Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
Simply one of the best books I have ever read. True master of language and character. ( )
  stevewhite71 | Mar 19, 2014 |
Wow, all I can say is... what a stone cold bitch! Serena is like a magestic, powerful panther that will gobble you up first chance she gets! I can hardly imagine how Jennifer Lawrence is going to play such a vile and twisted woman later this year on the big screen, so obviously I'll have to go see the movie version as well.

This award winning novel takes place in the North Carolina mountains amidst the Great Depression and follows newlyweds Serena and George Pemberton as they build focus on building and improving their timber empire in the mountains. Serena has decided that nothing or no one will get in their way, she is a resourceful woman and all men lay in awe of her, even her husband. When she discovers that she can bear no children she decides that if she can't have an heir then neither can her husband and she uses her one handed servant to track down and kill the illegitimate son that George sired before they had met.

This is a dark and twisting tale that explores just how deep greed and lust can go. Violence ensues.

Great book, but not a light read. ( )
  ecataldi | Jan 27, 2014 |
Spectacular! I finished this book & needed a couple days to just think about it before saying anything. I'm always thrilled when a book won't leave me alone after the reading is done. I loved this story & can honestly say that Serena was beyond formidable. I can't give away the best bits but honestly, there's something heartbreaking & altogether alluring in Pemberton when he's confronted with the truth of his end & is still determined to prove himself worthy of her. That was fascinating. I can't say Pemberton was blameless but I certainly don't think he deserved all that he got. The Coda at the end was a great bow on the story but I can honestly say that even without it, I would have been completely satisfied with the ending. Great characters & lush writing. I highly recommend this one. ( )
  anissaannalise | Jan 1, 2014 |
very violent. I really wanted to like the main character, she was so strong and confident, but unfortunately she was also completely psychotic! Interesting setting in a logging camp with hardly anyone blinking an eye at the total denudement of every tree in sight, except perhaps the drunken environmentalist who has a very teeny tiny bit part in the novel. Hard to see almost every character I started to like brutally murdered... ( )
  michellebarton | Oct 17, 2013 |
Also posted on my book blog, Rinn Reads.

It isn't often that I buy a book brand new these days. I'm saving up so I can afford to go and do my Masters - problematic when I have a book buying habit. So normally I get them second-hand.

However, every so often, I encounter a book that just really stands out, and I have to have it now. Serena was one of those books, purely from the blurb. I mentioned briefly before that I have a thing set for books in the Southern US states, so this checked one box. Toss in a 1920s setting (currently an interest of mine due to L.A. Noire), plus a cunning and strong-willed, albeit murderous, heroine, and I'm sold.

Both the reader and Serena are immediately made aware of George's infidelity, it's not some great secret that hovers throughout the book waiting to be exposed. This is a brilliant way of setting up Serena's character - instead of getting upset or angry as many women would in such a situation, she reacts in a rather stoic manner (pg. 7):


"You're a lucky man then," Serena said to Harmon. "You'll not find a better sire to breed her with. The size of her belly attests to that."
Serena turned her gaze and words to the daughter.
"But that's the only one you'll have of his. I'm here now. Any other children he has will be with me."


A woman ahead of her time, Serena is not afraid to get dirty, not phased by the possibility of injury and is completely prepared for her new Southern life. She takes an active role in the running of the camp, much to the shock of the workers, she wears trousers (dear god!) and rides horses. Refusing to be put down or excluded socially, Serena has wealth, a husband, an education and power, but not the one thing she wants most in the world: a child.

She is ultimately a very strong character, one that you can't help but admire - apart from that little niggling feeling at the back of your brain, the one that tells you she is cunning and capable of horrific acts, and prepared to kill an innocent child. It's difficult to decide whether to like her as a character or not, I suppose just as the workers are feeling when faced by Serena - she is a brilliant leader and boss, she knows exactly what she is doing, but she is female and that is not something they can easily overlook in that particular period of time.

I was expecting something dark and claustrophobic feeling, due to the isolation of the lumber camp - but the descriptions of the surrounding woods and neighbouring village make it feel huge, despite the camp and village being hours away from civilisation. The landscapes of the book were beautifully painted, and I got a real feel for the smells, sights and sounds of the forest. Unlike in The Snow Child, which felt very closed in due to the woodland setting, Serena only feels more broad. However, the chapters told from Rachel's POV (the young girl whom George gets pregnant) seem rather more claustrophobic. She is alone, with very little help, and in danger. This really juxtaposed the difference in social status between the two characters.

The jumps in time were a little confusing, sometimes months would pass and the only way to tell was the age of Jacob, George and Rachel's son. As for George, I was also unsure about how I should feel about him. The first impression the reader gets of him is that he is uncaring when it comes to Rachel, but he practically worships Serena. He is almost blinded by his love for her, unable to see what she is turning into and letting her wear the trousers (literally and figuratively) in the relationship. However, over time he starts to develop more of an interest in his young son, and also questions his previous actions and decisions, whilst slowly redeeming himself.

Oh, and the shocks in this book. There are so many events you don't see coming, or don't want to see coming, and they are brilliant. Starting with the very first chapter, they build up with intensity until the end - the most shocking of them all.

Definitely, definitely worth a read. You'll begin questioning whether you really support this strong-willed, independent young woman after all, especially with a lack of such figures in books these days. To have one waved under your nose and then have you wonder whether you like her at all is very effective.

Serena is also going to be made into a film, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper as Serena and George Pemberton. It is set for release at the end of October, and I will definitely be going to see it! ( )
  Rinnreads | Sep 24, 2013 |
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A hand, that with a grasp may grip the worlde.
--Christopher Marlowe
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For my bother, Thomas Rash
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When Pemberton returned to the North Carolina mountains after three months in Boston settling his father's estate, among those waiting on the train platform was a young woman pregnant with Pemberton's child.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0061470856, Hardcover)

The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains where they plan to create a timber empire. Although George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, Serena is new to the mountains--but she soon shows herself to be the equal of any man, overseeing crews, hunting rattle-snakes, even saving her husband's life in the wilderness. Together this lord and lady of the woodlands ruthlessly kill or vanquish all who fall out of favor. Yet when Serena learns that she will never bear a child, she sets out to murder the son George fathered without her. Mother and child begin a struggle for their lives, and when Serena suspects George is protecting his illegitimate family, the Pembertons' intense, passionate marriage starts to unravel as the story moves toward its shocking reckoning.

Rash's masterful balance of violence and beauty yields a riveting novel that, at its core, tells of love both honored and betrayed.

The Gift of Silence: An Essay by Ron Rash

When readers ask how I came to be a writer, I usually mention several influences: my parents’ teaching by example the importance of reading; a grandfather who, though illiterate, was a wonderful storyteller; and, as I grew older, an awareness that my region had produced an inordinate number of excellent writers and that I might find a place in that tradition. Nevertheless, I believe what most made me a writer was my early difficulty with language.

My mother tells me that certain words were impossible for me to pronounce, especially those with j’s and g’s. Those hard consonants were like tripwires in my mouth, causing me to stumble over words such as “jungle” and “generous.” My parents hoped I would grow out of this problem, but by the time I was five, I’d made no improvement. There was no speech therapist in the county, but one did drive in from the closest city once a week.

That once a week was a Saturday morning at the local high school. For an hour the therapist worked with me. I don’t remember much of what we did in those sessions, except that several times she held my hands to her face as she pronounced a word. I do remember how large and empty the classroom seemed with just the two of us in it, and how small I felt sitting in a desk made for teenagers.

I improved, enough so that by summer’s end the therapist said I needed no further sessions. I still had trouble with certain words (one that bedevils me even today is “gesture”), but not enough that when I entered first grade my classmates and teacher appeared to notice. Nevertheless, certain habits of silence had taken hold. It was not just self-consciousness. Even before my sessions with the speech therapist, I had convinced myself that if I listened attentively enough to others my own tongue would be able to mimic their words. So I listened more than I spoke. I became comfortable with silence, and, not surprisingly, spent a lot of time alone wandering nearby woods and creeks. I entertained myself with stories I made up, transporting myself into different places, different selves. I was in training to be a writer, though of course at that time I had yet to write more than my name.

Yet my most vivid memory of that summer is not the Saturday morning sessions at the high school but one night at my grandmother’s farmhouse. After dinner, my parents, grandmother and several other older relatives gathered on the front porch. I sat on the steps as the night slowly enveloped us, listening intently as their tongues set free words I could not master. Then it appeared. A bright-green moth big as an adult’s hand fluttered over my head and onto the porch, drawn by the light filtering through the screen door. The grown-ups quit talking as it brushed against the screen, circled overhead, and disappeared back into the night. It was a luna moth, I learned later, but in my mind that night it became indelibly connected to the way I viewed language--something magical that I grasped at but that was just out of reach.

In first grade, I began learning that loops and lines made from lead and ink could be as communicative as sound. Now, almost five decades later, language, spoken or written, is no longer out of reach, but it remains just as magical as that bright-green moth. What writer would wish it otherwise.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:38 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains where they plan to create a timber empire. Although George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, Serena is new to the mountains - but she soon shows herself to be the equal of any man, overseeing crews, hunting rattlesnakes, even saving her husband's life in the wilderness." "Together this lord and lady of the woodlands ruthlessly kill or vanquish all who fall out of favor. Yet when Serena learns that she will never bear a child, she sets out to murder the son George fathered without her, Mother and child begin a struggle for their lives, and when Serena suspects George is protecting his illegitimate family, the Pembertons' intense, passionate marriage starts to unravel as the story moves toward its shocking reckoning."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

» see all 7 descriptions

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