A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Book 1 – Discussion 1

“Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York.  Especially in the summer of 1912.  Somber, as a word, was better.  But it did not apply to Williamsburg, Brooklyn.”

Serene or somber?  Serene seems to imply happiness, while somber seems sad.  Which one is the better word for the Brooklyn, New York of Betty Smith’s work?  Or do both apply?  How?