Customer Reviews

21
3.8 out of 5 stars
The Scent of Pine: A Novel
Format: HardcoverChange
Price:$21.20 + Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon January 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The Scent of Pine offers the reader a slice from a woman's life. Lena (an academic who teaches at a community college) might be too dreary for some readers, but the novel offers a valuable glance at her (dreary) life. Fortunately, the novel is brief and the dreariness is partially offset by Lena's lively stories about her job in a Soviet Union summer camp.

The novel takes place over the course of a few days as Lena tries to "solve the mystery of her present unhappiness." Twenty years earlier, when Lena was a student in the Soviet Union who just met her friend Inka, happiness seemed inevitable. Now, having lived with her husband Vadim in the United States for ten years, happiness seems impossible, particularly when she attends a conference to give a talk on Sex Education in Soviet Russia that nobody attends.

Lena meets Ben at the conference. Ben offers to drive Lena back to Boston and then to his leaky cabin in Maine. Along the way, Lena tells Ben (and thus the reader) the stories of her life. In the process, she explores the nature of happiness, questions why the men in her life (including Vadim) have never made her happy and, as she starts to see her stories from Ben's perspective, begins to reinterpret her past. In turn, Ben tells his stories to Lena. But all stories come to an end and, when a comfortable intimacy begins to connect them, Lena wonders about the ending of the story of Ben and Lena.

Late in the novel, Lena learns the truth (or at least a different perspective of truth) behind some of the stories she's been telling Ben about the Soviet camp. Lena is forced again to reinterpret her own stories while the reader learns how the stories connect to her present life. The connection is meant to be surprising and it probably is, but only because Laura Vapnyar conceals a fact from the reader (and Ben) for the sole purpose of creating a surprise near the novel's end.

To some extent, The Scent of Pine is a familiar love story as Ben awakens feelings in Lena that she can't recall experiencing with Vadim. The story is slight but it has the virtue of honesty. Fear of love is the novel's best theme. Lena fears love, not only because love hurts, but because it gives her the power to hurt someone else. Ben says: "practically every single thing that we do is either to distract ourselves from what is wrong with our lives, or to please somebody else, or to shield ourselves from reproaches and guilt" which causes us to live in cocoons, but emerging from the cocoon inevitably hurts someone, so we retreat to its safety and loneliness. It's a sad but not uncommon way of living and Vapnyar depicts it convincingly.

As a slice of life, The Scent of Pine lacks the heft of a more substantial novel. Despite its limitations and the rather colorless scenes that take place in the present, Vapnyar's prose style is graceful and the novel offers significant insight into its characters without overreaching. Those benefits make The Scent of Pine worth reading.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover
My review:

When Simon & Schuster offered me a review copy of The Scent of Pine by Lara Vapnyar, I was intrigued. Partially because the author is originally from my neighbouring country Russia and partially because of the blurb of the book. The plot seemed promising.

The Scent of Pine tells a story about Lena who is closing 40 and she has reached a point in her life when she needs to let go some parts of her past and to take a retrospective journey. Her marriage is a mess, she has difficulties with settling in at her new country and her work life is dissatisfying as well.

During a conference she meets Ben, an artist gone academic. There is an immediate attraction between Ben and Lena and when Lena is offered to take a ride back to Boston with Ben, they end up at Ben's cabin. The more time they spend with each other, the more secrets are being revealed. Lena opened up and discovers herself through Ben.

If you are looking for a book filled with wild romance and action, you will be disappointed. It's not that kind of book. It's definitely about passion and love, yes! It's also a story about intimacy. But mostly about sexual liberation and letting go of the past. It's a story about two people discovering themselves through each other. And even though the spacing is slow, it's beautiful!

The story flows like a river. The pacing is in my opinion slow, but interesting. It seems like the time stops while the intimacy of relationships are folded out in front of the reader. Of course, since I was born and raised in the Soviet Union, I might be able to relate to many things what Lena is sharing with Ben. But that's not the most important reason why I liked the book. I savoured the writing style, it was humorous and little bittersweet. Lara Vapnyar is a sharp storyteller leaving lot of thoughts in between the lines. I loved that there was space for my own thoughts while reading.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover
“The Scent of Pine” by Lara Vapnyar tells a story about Lena who at 40 has reached a point in her life when she needs to let go, and to take stock, of her past. Her marriage is a train wreck, she has adjustment issues with settling into her new country and her professional life leaves much to be desired. 

While at a conference she meets Ben, an artist and academic. There is an immediate attraction between Ben and Lena. Lena takes a ride back to Boston with Ben but they end up at Ben's cabin. The more time they spend with each other, the more secrets are revealed. Lena opens up and discovers herself through Ben. 

If you are looking for a book filled with wild romance and action, you will be disappointed. It's not that kind of book. It's definitely about passion and love, yes! It's also a story about intimacy. But mostly about sexual liberation and letting go of the past. It's a story about two people discovering themselves through each other. And even though the spacing is slow, it's beautiful! 

I savored the writing style, it was humorous and little bittersweet. Lara Vapnyar is a sharp storyteller leaving lot of thoughts in between the lines. I loved that there was space for my own thoughts while reading.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I really like Lara Vapnyar as a storyteller. She's a natural, and she has a special gift for capturing nuances of human behavior, especially when people are in love or sexually involved. I always read her New Yorker stories with pleasure, although I also feel that her dialogue is stilted and does not feel real. "The Scent of Pine" works well as a story, a Russian-American novel, I should say. But I struggled with the prose, and particularly so with the dialogue. Dialogue is one of the hardest things to write in a second language, but this is a novel written in English for the American audience, so the dialogue needs to be real and believable. So I have mixed feelings about this novel. Judge for yourselves.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
A lyrical but true to life reflection on first loves, marriage, and an unending yearning for capturing the elusive sense of happiness, safety, and feeling understood by another human being, written in an eloquent, poignant, yet often funny way, with a perspective that can only be found by those who have crossed landscapes, language, and cultures to arrive in the United States.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
The writing and characterization are excellent and enhance the story. I enjoyed reading it and am looking forward to more from this author.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 13, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
A scent of pine, forests, and a sense of isolation figure prominently in this spare novel that centers on nearly forty-something Lena, a Russian immigrant living in Boston with her husband and two children. She is unhappy: her marriage is no better than a standoff and her career as an adjunct instructor is going nowhere. But now, with some hope, she is delivering a paper at a conference while her husband has taken the kids to CA to visit grandparents.

The conference does not go well, but she latches onto Ben, an expert in graphic novels, and requires little persuasion for a one-night stand. But it is on a long drive, accepted on impulse, to Ben’s rustic cabin in Maine, where in a series of shared stories, she revisits her one summer years before as a counselor at a youth camp in a Russian forest, with unexpected implications for her current life. Basically a loner, the camp was an eye-opener to Lena, especially in awakened feelings for some of the soldiers who also served at the camp. Oddly enough, she runs into her best friend Inka from the camp in NYC just before the conference, where Inka suggests that Lena had a secret admirer at the camp.

The author has a decidedly unhurried approach with sharp insight into both the difficulties and promises of intimacy and desire, as well as deft descriptive powers. In sharing the small details of Ben’s retreat world: the diner, grocery store, the cabin, including the constant dialogue, one can feel Lena beginning to re-imagine a life of happiness and connection at some point in the future. She finally understands that she has misconstrued the past.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Brings back the memories... both happy and sad.
Beautifully written, masterful intertwining timelines. Would make a great screenplay!
Enjoyed reading it very much. Thank you Lara Vapnyar for yet another great story.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
I have read all of Ms. Vapnyar's books with pleasure and found her to be a superb prose stylist. Consequently I looked forward to reading her latest novel 'The Scent of Pine'. Lena, a Russian emigree and academic who is unhappily married finds herself at a dull conference in upstate New York. There she meets Ben a fellow academic, artist and specialist in graphic novels. The two strike up a friendship and while driving together towards Ben's cabin in Maine their intimacy grows.

Much of the novel is taken up with flashbacks to Lena's summer as a camp counselor in the Soviet Union twenty years earlier where something mysterious happens. We have been promised a unforgetable twist ending which is supposed to keep us reading. But what is revealed is more of a whisper than a bang and the result of such a ridiculous coincidence as to strain credulity. I found the camp flashbacks tedious and dull, a real effort to get through. The novel doesn't redeem itself somewhat until the last chapter when the old Lara Vapnyar reappears and the luminosity of her prose returns. Too bad the entire novel couldn't have been like that. What a disappointment. It's only for that last chapter that I give it two stars.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Amazing, gentle, touching, inspiring. A must read for every man who wants to understand and appreciate women. A real treat.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed
There Are Jews in My House
There Are Jews in My House by Lara Vapnyar (Paperback - December 7, 2004)
$11.67

Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love
Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love by Lara Vapnyar (Paperback - June 2, 2009)
$13.22

Little Failure: A Memoir
Little Failure: A Memoir by Gary Shteyngart (Paperback - October 7, 2014)
$12.97
 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations 
 

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.