Recently read: ‘Serena’

Serena, by Ron Rash, is a book I didn’t want to put down, and now that it’s finished, I keep thinking about it. There’s plenty of murder, violence and greed, but the story is much more than that. There are so many parallels and intricacies in the plot that aren’t immediately apparent, and that’s what I truly enjoyed most about this novel. There’s a lot in the book for you to stew over long after it’s finished. When it comes to historical fiction based in the North Carolina mountains, this is right up there with Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain.

Serena by Ron Rash

George and Serena Pemberton are the timber industry’s ruthless power couple. Driven by Serena’s cold-hearted determination to clear cut every tract of land in the mountains before moving on to Brazil, they cut down anyone standing in their way. When she suspects her husband of protecting the mother of his illegitimate child, things inevitably go bad. While Serena is a horrible person and, how do I put this delicately, a bitch, I couldn’t help admiring her for completely going against any gender norms of the early 1930s in rural western North Carolina. She does what she wants and doesn’t give a shit about what anyone else thinks.

I bought this book during my trip to Asheville at Malaprop’s Bookstore. Asheville and Malaprop’s are both awesome.

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Recently read: ‘Burnt Shadows’

Yesterday I finished reading Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie. I actually bought this book in Oxford, England about 3 years ago, and forgot about that until I noticed the price on the back was in pounds.

I enjoyed the book, which explores the relationships between a Japanese woman who survived the bombing of Nagasaki, a bright, young Indian man with dreams of becoming a lawyer, an upper-class British family experiencing the collapse of an empire and a marriage, and their children. These relationships endure despite conflict between nations – Japan, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States – in pivotal points in history. It was quite fitting that I finished the book on Sept. 11, as the novel progresses through the aftermath of 9/11.Burnt Shadows, Kamila ShamsieIt was an educational book for me as well; aside from the United States, I don’t know much about the other countries that are central to the plot of the book.

Shamsie writes beautifully, I think. Within her writing there is wonderful imagery, and I would definitely read more of her novels.