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The Gift Of Rain by Tan Twan Eng

The Gift Of Rain (original 2007; edition 2007)

by Tan Twan Eng

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6434715,030 (4.09)1 / 218
Title:The Gift Of Rain
Authors:Tan Twan Eng
Info:Myrmidon (2007), Paperback, 448 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:historical, WWII, Malaysia

Work details

The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng (2007)

  1. 20
    An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro (bibliobibuli)
    bibliobibuli: The Gift of Rain was greatly influenced by this book.
  2. 10
    The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama (Limelite)
    Limelite: Another young interracial Chinese boy's coming of age during WWII, only this one is set in Japan.

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The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng was written before the enchanting, five star Garden of Evening Mists, and it features the same type of hypnotic, poetic language that graced the latter. Protagonist Philip Hutton is the son of an English widower and Chinese mother who fell in love and defied local constraints. He has lived on the Malaysia island of Penang his entire life, including during its WWII Japanese occupation, and is now in his 70s. One night a woman around his age, Michiko, shows up at his home, wishing to discuss his life with his mentor and martial arts instructor Endo-san, a man she loved. Philip opens up to her, and we learn of his difficulties as a mixed-race child, and how Endo-san brought meaning and clarity to his life.

Philip's love for his English and Chinese families, and for the Japanese Endo-san, puts him at an unique central point of tension, and his facility with languages makes him of use to all three communities. How to navigate the WWII occupation and save his families? How to reconcile Endo-san's importance to him with the brutality of the occupiers? “Accept that there are things in this world we can never explain and life will be understandable. That is the irony of life. It is also the beauty of it.”

His martial arts studies with Endo-san are critical to his growth and he learns ways to move people in the direction he desires.

“As with all the principles of aikijutsu, you do not meet the force of the strike head-on. You parry, you step to the side to avoid the blow, your redirect the force and unbalance your opponent. It is the same with the ken, the sword. These principles apply to you daily life as well. Never meet a person’s anger directly. Deflect, distract him, even agree with him. Unbalance his mind, and you can lead him anywhere you want.”

His efforts are not always successful, however. “I had loaded another weight onto his suffering and it hurt me to understand that while one person can never really share the pain of another, they can so easily and so heedlessly add to it.” As you can tell, Philip is a sensitive man trying to reach a higher understanding, often in impossibly difficult circumstances. His fellow villagers variously view him as a hero and a villain, and he is not certain himself which he might be.

I would say that lots of gray areas are explored in the book, except that they come across as colorful, rather than gray. As in The Garden of Evening Mists, his descriptions of the sea and his surroundings are poetic and beautiful. Philip has the gift of rain, with all that entails.

"Like the rain, I had brought tragedy into many people's lives but, more often than not, rain also brings relief, clarity, and renewal. It washes away our pain and prepares us for another day, and even another life. Now that I am old I find that the rains follow me and give me comfort, like the spirits of all the people I have ever known and loved."

This was a solid four star read. ( )
3 vote jnwelch | Nov 9, 2015 |
Young Phillip unknowingly becomes a traitor to his small Malayan island. He is born of a mixed race family so he is an outsider from the beginning, even in his own family. He therefore must find secret ways to save the people he loves and the community he grew up in. This is a novel of wartime lies and wartime loyalties. It is also about finding who one can trust in trying and unspeakable times. The writing in the novel is poetic. It is so well written and flows so smoothly. The characters are all very well written, even the ones we come to loathe so much. I generally read WWII novels taking place in Europe, so this was a great choice to diverge from that path. Malaya is the authors' homeland and it is obvious by the way the novel is written. The descriptions are wonderful. ( )
  bnbookgirl | Aug 10, 2015 |
The Gift of Rain tells a riveting and poignant tale about a young man caught in the tangle of wartime loyalties and deceits.

In 1939, sixteen-year-old Philip Hutton-the half-Chinese, half-English youngest child of the head of one of Penang's great trading families-feels alienated from both the Chinese and British communities. He at last discovers a sense of belonging in his unexpected friendship with Hayato Endo, a Japanese diplomat. Philip proudly shows his new friend around his adored island, and in return Endo teaches him about Japanese language and culture and trains him in the art and discipline of aikido. But such knowledge comes at a terrible price. When the Japanese savagely invade Malaya, Philip realizes that his mentor and sensei-to whom he owes absolute loyalty-is a Japanese spy. Young Philip has been an unwitting traitor, and must now work in secret to save as many lives as possible, even as his own family is brought to its knees.
1 vote rhactor | Jul 9, 2015 |
A book that swept me up and yet....

My rating of the book kept changing from 5 to 3 stars and I finally settled on 4 - the language was usually gorgeous - at times exceptional - yet sometimes almost overdone - This is the story of a biracial British/Chinese teen in Malaya who doesn't fit in with family or community - he develops a remarkable relationship with his sensai (teacher of the martial arts) and that relationship which evolves in many intricate ways is my favorite aspect of the story - once the Japanese invade, the protagonist accepts a painful and deeply conflicted role, once again caught in a clash of cultures.

As this was the author's first novel, it is hard to take issue with such an accomplished piece of writing. However, I was surprised by the main character's lack of emotion during a few extremely painful moments - people very close to him died, and Phillip seemed to take it all in without much feeling - as that continued, I became less enthralled with the story as his reactions seemed strange and almost jarring to me. ( )
  njinthesun | May 21, 2015 |
A beautifully evocative book ( )
  LouieAndTheLizard | Jan 2, 2015 |
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Book description
This remarkable debut saga of intrigue and akido flashes back to a darkly opulent WWII-era Malaya. Phillip Hutton, 72, lives in serene Penang comfort, occasionally training students as an akido master teacher of teachers. A visit from Michiko Murakami sends him spiraling back into his past, where he grows up the alienated half-British, half-Chinese son of a wealthy Penang trader in the years before WWII. When Hutton's father and three siblings leave him to run the family company one summer, he befriends a mysterious Japanese neighbor named Mr. Endo. Japan is on the opposing side of the coming war, but Endo paradoxically opts to train Hutton in the ways of aikido, in what both men come to see as the fulfillment of a prophecy that has haunted them for several lifetimes. When the Japanese army invades Malaya, chaos reigns, and Phillip makes a secret, very profitable deal. He cannot, however, offset the costs of his friendship with Endo. Eng's characters are as deep and troubled as the time in which the story takes place, and he draws on a rich palette to create a sprawling portrait of a lesser explored corner of the war. Hutton's first-person narration is measured, believable and enthralling.
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"The Gift of Rain is the story of Philip Hutton and the haunting tragedies that befall him when he becomes entangled in a web of wartime loyalties and deceits. In 1939, at the outset of World War II, sixteen- year-old Philip is a lonely outsider on the lush Malayan island of Penang. Alienated from his community and family, he at last discovers a sense of belonging through an unexpected friendship with another outsider -- a foreign diplomat whose true purpose on the island will ultimately bring unspeakable devastation. When Philip discovers he has been an unwitting traitor to his homeland and its people, he must work in secret to save as many lives as possible, even as his own family is torn apart. At once harrowing and luminous, Tan Twan Eng's celebrated debut novel is a thrilling epic and a true literary page-turner."--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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Average: (4.09)
2 6
2.5 4
3 23
3.5 10
4 70
4.5 20
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Myrmidon Books

An edition of this book was published by Myrmidon Books.

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