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The Heat of the Sun by David Rain

The Heat of the Sun

by David Rain

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Inspired by Puccini's Madame Butterfly and Luigi Illica's libretto, and other works on which it was based, David Rain has read into the story of Butterfly, expanded it and continued it towards the end of the C20th through the lives of Pinkerton's son Benjamin and Sharpless' son Woodley. Woodley and Ben, known as Trouble, first meet as young boys at Blaze Academy. Bookish Woodley is immediately drawn to the charismatic and extravagant Trouble, although it takes a while, and a turn of events, for the two to establish a relationship, a relationship that will repeatedly wax and wane over the years as the meet, part and meet up again.

Woodley does his best to look after his wayward friend, encouraged, or rather charged with the commission, by Kate Pinkerton, Trouble's step-mother and wife of the now influential Senator Pinkerton. They live it up in the 1920s, meet again in Japan just before the outbreak of WWII, later they find themselves working together on a secret project that will bring an end to hostilities between Japan and the US. But the fall-out could mean they will not see each other again.

This is a story that seems much bigger than its 270 plus pages, it covers so much with so many twists and turns. I found once or twice, if the story was ever in the possible danger of loosing my attention a new turn of events would rekindle my interest, and the more so on each occasion to the extent that the latter part I read in one sitting. It is much helped by the quality of the writing which alone makes the reading a pleasure.

Woodley, who narrates the account portrays himself as a rather lack-lustre character sometimes failing in his convictions, ponderous and limited by a childhood injury that leaves him crippled; but this only accentuates Trouble's wild, extrovert nature with his lithe, boyish physique. There is a third man in their relationship, Le Vol, a friend of Woodley's from Blaze, a friend who is not so taken with Trouble. Throughout there are rare hints of the real nature of the relationship between Woodley and Trouble, and Woodley and Le Vol, and we must wait until the last pages to find even a hint of a confirmation or otherwise; but then we never really doubted, did we?

This is a compelling story, with a cast of colourful and often powerful men and women; and we can feel very safe throughout in the hands of David Rain and his impeccable prose. ( )
  presto | Dec 1, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I liked David Rain's The Heat of the Sun much more than I expected I would at the outset. It begins as a typical boys' boarding school narrative which is not one of my favorite genres -- seems to me they're all pretty much the same story over and over. Fortunately, it gets better once the boys are out of school and on their own in the years leading up to World War II and during the war. I enjoyed all the many plot twists and turns, even though some of the coincidental meetings and developments were just a bit implausible. It was a little difficult to suspend my disbelief enough to accept that the Madame Butterfly story was real and that there had never been a famous opera based on the tale. I guess secretly I kept thinking that sooner or later one of the characters was going to say something like, "Hey, doesn't this all sound really familiar?" But that's a problem I have with a lot of historical fiction, and it wasn't enough of an issue to keep me from being thoroughly entertained. Definitely a good read, if you give it a chance. ( )
  jlshall | Mar 10, 2013 |
David Rain’s debut novel, The Heat of the Sun, is an unusual and ambitious one: an updating of one of the most famous fictional romances of the twentieth century, Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. As the opera begins, in 1904, an American Naval officer is marrying a young woman in Nagasaki, Japan. The officer returns to the United States soon after the wedding without knowing that his Japanese bride carries his child. The young woman bears a son but, for complicated reasons, ends up taking her own life.

Rain picks up the story in America a few years later – where the child, completely unaware of his personal history, is being raised by his father and upper class stepmother. Coincidentally (and the author is not at all bashful about asking his readers to suspend their sense of disbelief for the duration of this novel), Ben “Trouble” Pinkerton will soon meet another boy whose father played a role in Madame Butterfly’s sad fate.

Woodley Sharpless and Ben Pinkerton meet in the boarding school to which their parents have relegated them and form an attachment that, despite long periods during which they lose contact, will be the longest and most enduring friendship of their lives. Together, more times than not, the pair will play roles in some of the key events of the twentieth century – everything from experiencing the Roaring Twenties in New York City to involvement in the Los Alamos Project that would ultimately almost destroy Trouble Pinkerton’s city of birth.

The Heat of the Sun is a wild ride, but readers willing to suspend judgment pertaining to the plausibility of the plot’s several chance-meetings between its main characters are going to enjoy that ride immensely. The author presents his story within an operatic framework: with sections marked, Overture, Act One, Act Two, Between the Acts, Act Three, Act Four, and Curtain. Each of these sections marks the passage of a number of years and a major of changing of circumstances for our narrator and other of the book’s main characters.

David Rain is an Australian author whose mother was English. He now lives in London where he teaches writing at Middlesex University. He numbers Dickens and F. Scott Fitzgerald among his favorite authors, and there are shades of both in his debut novel. The novel also reminds me a bit of John Irving’s work and, bottom line, The Heat of the Sun is one of the more imaginative debut novels I have encountered in a while.

Rated at: 4.5 ( )
  SamSattler | Jan 26, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I loved the idea of this book - what happened to the son of Madame Butterfly? A classic tale of love and the fruit of that love Ben "Trouble" Pinkerton has his tale related by author David Rain in a book that starts off so well you know it's just going to be a great read - and then it's such a disappointment.

I really had to struggle to stay with it and ended up wishing for a different story for the offspring of such a spellbinding love story. ( )
  caseylondon | Jan 19, 2013 |
I loved the way this book started. The two boys meeting at a boarding school, although some of the things that happened at the school were rather horrific. Than they meet up again , years later and renew their friendship. I might have appreciated this more, and I really wish I had re-read Madame Butterfly because I could have understood who some of these characters were meant to be portraying. The prose was great and the book included some widespread history, the Manhattan Project, the bombings of Hiroshima among others. The prose was brilliant in many areas , but somewhere in the middle of the book the author lost me or I got lost. It almost seemed as if the style in the second half was completely different. So this was a good read for me but it could have been so much more. ( )
  Beamis12 | Jan 16, 2013 |
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On the gravity of Americans and why it does not prevent them from acting rashly -
Chapter title from Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America.
For Anthony, who asked "What happened to that boy?"
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In Havana before the revolution, I sat one afternoon on a hotel terrace, playing chess with an elderly gentleman who had struck up my acquaintance.
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John Luther Long is not another author of this book. His story was one of the inspirations for the book, but he shouldn't be included as another author.
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When recently orphaned Woodley Sharpless encounters Ben Pinkerton -- known to all as 'Trouble' -- for the first time at the exclusive Blaze Academy, he is instantly enraptured. They are polar opposites; Ben is exotic and daring; Woodley is bookish and frail, yet their lives quickly become inextricable intertwined. First at school, then in the staccato days of twenties New York, Woodley sees flashes of another person in his friend and slowly discovers a side of Ben's nature that belies a dark and hidden history. As the curtain falls on the frivolity of the twenties and rises to reveal the cruelty of a new decade, Woodley and Ben's friendship begins to fragment. Over the coming years the two men meet intermittently; in Japan before the outbreak of the Second World War and then in the midst of the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. Change in both their lives, their relationship and their suffering, stand for a generation; one dispersed by depression and upheaval, brutality and confusion.… (more)

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