Despite eight books to his name, it’s taken a Pen/Faulkner nomination for Southern Gothic writer Ron Rash to finally be published in Australia – and thanks to Text Publishing we are now being introduced to an American writer at the top of his game.
Serena has garnered a lot of praise for Rash since its first release, with rave newspaper reviews, a slew of awards and comparisons to Cormac McCarthy. The good news is that the effusive comments are justified.
Serena is a Western epic, of sorts. Set at the end of the cowboy era, the story revolves around its titular character. A timber baroness by trade, Serena has just married the first man who has proven to be her equal, George Pemberton. Together they join forces in love and business to log the forests of North Carolina, and later South America. Serena proves herself to be a regular Lady Macbeth, winning the respect of the logging crews by training an eagle to catch rattlesnakes, and slowly running the operation out from under her husband’s feet.
Rash shows plenty of style and grit with this unromantic Deadwood style tale, but it is in the loggers’ gradual realisation that their business activities are destroying the environment that the frightening contemporary message resonates. Serena is a compelling tale of frontier life and its modern consequences.