Now that I have this amazing thing called “free time” I’d like to start a new little series of book reviews. Sound good? First on the list, Serena by Ron Rash.
I discovered Serena‘s existence through Jennifer Lawrence’s IMDB page. No joke. She is currently filming the adaptation of the novel, playing the titular role of Serena. As per Wikipedia, Sererna is described as a tale of “the ambitious wife of a North Carolina timber baron, Serena brings the spirit of Lady MacBeth to depression-era North Carolina.” That’s all I’m going to give you in terms of plot, because that’s all you should know going in (though I will say that I’m not one hundred percent on board with the Lady MacBeth comparison). Although it might seem silly, don’t read the back of the book. Seriously. The novel is broken up into three parts and only in the last part do the events addressed on the back cover begin to unfold. If you read the back, you will be waiting for those events to happen and become frustrated. Trust me, this happened to me a little bit. Just be patient, take those first two sections for what they are and watch as the plot begins to develop.
Plus, those first two sections have a lot of merit. Ron Rash certainly knows how to pull a reader in. The first chapter begins the book with a bang, introducing the tone of the novel and its main characters in a non-contrived, well-executed way. There is no easing in to Serena, instead the reader is pushed head first into the action of the novel. Was I entranced the whole time? No. Was I interested the whole time? Yes. Serena is not the perfect book, and frankly I expected a little more from a PEN/ Faulkner Award for Fiction nominee, but it is a good book. I had no problem putting it down, walking away, making a sandwich and two hours later happily picking it back up again. The plot didn’t pull at me, but it did still have me. The characters are interesting (some reader reviews found them stale and one-dimensional. I didn’t really find this to be entirly the case.) and I liked the pacing of the plot. From the bang at the beginning, the novel begins to settle as little peaks action pop up in the narrative until the end when things pick up again. Rash takes his time getting to the peak of the action in Serena, but once he reaches that peak, carries the suspense to the very end, finishing the novel with a resounding bang. For the record: I loved the ending and didn’t see it coming at all. I had to read one chapter twice just to make sure that what I thought was happening what actually happening.
If you have the time, Serena is worth a read. For all its flaws, I’m still thinking about it four days after finishing it (I wish someone else would read it so we could talk about it!) and am seriously excited for the movie. Jennifer Lawrence as Serena? Bradley Cooper as Pemberton? Directed by the Susan Bier who directed Academy Award Foreign Language film In a Better World? Sounds pretty awesome to me.