The Gift of Rain- Group Read

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The Gift of Rain- Group Read

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Edited: Feb 17, 2015, 4:44pm

Join is on this group read of The Gift of Rain, but Tan Twan Eng. Many of us read and loved the Man Booker Prize short-listed The Garden of Evening Mists and this one also promises great things.

My copy is the blue and silver edition in the centre, which I received for my birthday, two years ago now. Which edition have you got? Please feel free to join in at any stage, and remember to alert for spoilers.

Feb 17, 2015, 4:51pm

Oh I LOVED this book. Wishing you a lovely group read.

Feb 17, 2015, 4:53pm

I ordered a copy from the regional library system last week - my library is rudely renovating this week, but I'm hoping the book will be ready for me to pick up and start reading on the weekend.

Feb 17, 2015, 5:00pm

>2 charl08: my dad raved about this book and was miffed when I called him to tell him I was starting it soon. He was the one who gave it to me two years ago!

>3 evilmoose: fingers crossed it gets there! You'll have no probs with me reading too fast though.....

Feb 17, 2015, 8:34pm

Starred! Don't know when I'll be able to start. If I can ONLY finish with Brideshead Revisited already! I'll definitely come back and give a holler when I pick up TGoR. I've got the Kindle version which I'll be reading on my iPad.

Feb 17, 2015, 9:51pm

Added this thread to the group wiki...

Feb 17, 2015, 10:02pm

I read The Gift of Rain at the beginning of August 2013 and thought it superior to its much lauded successor in terms of the storyline.

I won't be re-reading it but I am sure that you'll all enjoy doing so. No spoilers in this so I thought I would re-post my earlier review of the book here in support. xx

The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng

Simply a wonderful novel from this supremely gifted and, I am proud to say, thoroughly Malaysian author.

We are told the story of Philip Hutton - half English, half Chinese-Malaysian - and his relationship with Hayato Endo leasee of a small island adjacent to his family home, martial artist, teacher and of motivation doubtful in its provenance. It is a relationship that will govern the fortunes of Philip and his family in war-torn Pinang, especially during the occupation.

The much lauded successor is in many ways a companion piece to this earlier work, telling of a wartime relationship with the "enemy" via flashbacks. It is at least equally as effective in so doing. Perhaps less polished the The Garden of Evening Mists but the plotting and evocative sense of place is unerring.

The words of a condemned Japanese guilty of fraternisation encapsulate the theme of this novel thus:

"'Duty is a concept created by emperors and generals to deceive us into performing their will. Be wary when duty speaks, for it often masks the voice of others. Others who do not have your interests at heart'"

Highly recommended.


Feb 18, 2015, 2:12pm

>5 Smiler69: go Brideshead Revisited! I can confirm that the first chapter of The Gift of Rain is very enticing and I remember feeling the same with The Garden of Evening Mists at the beginning

>6 drneutron: thanks Jim!

>7 PaulCranswick: highly recommended huh? That's good enough for me :) He unfolds a story in such a lovely way.

Feb 20, 2015, 12:43pm

I am reading this book right now, so I thought that I would drop in - I have it on Kindle, but I am drooling over that blue and silver edition. Lovely! I am at about 40% - let's see, um... chapter 15.

Feb 20, 2015, 1:15pm

^oh yay! How did I not know you were reading this already? That is cool :)
I am up to chapter 4 and having to resist reading it on account of chores and stuff taking precedence. But I still have the evenings and I intend to read a chunk tonight.

Chapters 1 and 2 I loved, setting the scene. And then chapters 3 and 4 are getting into the meat of the history/story.

Feb 20, 2015, 1:15pm

I am really loving the writing.

Feb 21, 2015, 3:05pm

^yea, me too Mamie. I tend to put off reading longer books, as I find the commitment daunting. But when it is great, you just don't want them to end! Fear huh? It gets us nowhere.

Feb 21, 2015, 5:33pm

Woo, finally got my copy from the library. It's actually this cover:

and in hardcover, which always feels fancy. So far, I have read the first sentence!

Feb 22, 2015, 5:15pm

>13 evilmoose: yay! So, how was it? The first sentence ;)

I am up to page 126 or something close by. I fell asleep trying to read stoically on last night. But my body gave out on me, and I had to give in to sleep. Damn sleep, it makes it difficult to read! I really loved the first two chapters, what did/do you think?

Feb 23, 2015, 12:28am

I quite liked the first sentence. After some thought, I decided I should read a little more, and am now at the end of chapter 4 (p53 in my edition). I agree with your "setting the scene, then starting the meat of the story" analysis. And remembering an old friend who was an aikido teacher who showed me how to do some of the basics - flipping people over is very fun. Being flipped over was more startling. He was very good at it, and incredibly calm and self-possessed in everything he did; the book is definitely bringing back memories of him.

Feb 23, 2015, 2:12pm

Hooked by the first sentence huh? It happens :)
I don't know much about aikido, and so my knowledge of it from the book leads me to believe that everyone who does it becomes proficient in it rapidly!

Feb 24, 2015, 10:27pm

I am into Book 2 now. So just over half way. It seems like some dangled threads are being pulled together, very cleverly. I like the style of this book, it is offering clues but in a classy and unhurried way.

Edited: Feb 24, 2015, 11:01pm

Group readers may find Tan Twan Eng's comments on the book interesting. Have read through it and I don't see any spoilers.

Look under the Q/A link as it has comments by him on the book.

Feb 25, 2015, 12:22am

^I dare not go there now. I have kids swarming about me and I think this is the kind of site that needs a warm drink and a little time on my hands.

Feb 26, 2015, 1:45am

From the website referenced in >18 PaulCranswick:....
Q. Were you influenced by other authors or other texts while writing? Which ones?
A. I wasn't influenced by anyone or any text while actually writing THE GIFT OF RAIN, but I've been an admirer of Kazuo Ishiguro's works for a long time. He has that spare, detached tone in his novels that I like. When I first decided I wanted to be a writer, I thought I would like to write the way he does. But when I began working on THE GIFT OF RAIN, I realized that I couldn't do so, because we're completely different people, with different influences, tastes and viewpoints.

That is interesting, I think in some ways Tan Twan Eng's writing is spare, even if he doesn't think it is. I am glad it comes across like this to me, as it is a style I like. Thanks Paul for the link.

Feb 26, 2015, 4:01am

I loved this book so much - hope everyone who reads it this month does too! I bought it by accident instead of The Garden of Evening Mists.

Feb 28, 2015, 1:10pm

I finally started last night and am hooked. Only read the first two 'setting the scene' chapters so far, but he does that very very well, and I'm reminded of his style that got me to fall in love with The Garden of Evening Mists. That one I'd listened to as an audiobook, and this one is a Kindle ebook. It's nice being able to reread his sentences as I see fit, because he does write so beautifully.

>18 PaulCranswick: Perhaps I'll wait a little till I'm further along, although there are no spoilers, but I look forward to looking up that link, thanks for providing it, Paul.

Feb 28, 2015, 3:54pm

>21 cushlareads: enthusiasm is waning slightly towards the end!! I am increasingly less able to relate to Phillip's motivations. I just can't see why he is sticking with Endo-san and his lot. I see other options open to him that he is not taking.

>22 Smiler69: great start huh? It is so evocative of that time and place (from what I can guess that that time and place was like!).
One sentence I just read reminded me of Paul and his family, about food being central to life in Malaysia!

Feb 28, 2015, 8:09pm

That's exactly it, Megan. I loved Book One, but Book Two lost me along the way. Also, I thought that he was very self-serving - he always took the easy out. And then blamed Fate. I had a hard time with this. But I loved the writing.

Feb 28, 2015, 11:53pm

^aaaah, so your prophesy rang true for me. And here I was nay-saying it ;)

Mar 1, 2015, 12:22am

I'm still slowly moseying along, getting in a chapter a day on average (paper books are usually slow for me). Enjoying things so far though. Calming reading.

Mar 1, 2015, 3:09pm

^once you are further through, we can talk more in depth about the main man and what he is up to. It's funny how he is called Phillip, but you rarely see his name referred to. I see him as more Chinese than British, and I wonder if the lack of his name being mentioned has led to this.

Mar 5, 2015, 10:39am

Phillip?! He's never seemed like a Phillip to me. At least not so far. Curious. I haven't had much paper book time over the last few days, but hopefully will get stuck in again tomorrow and over the weekend.

Mar 6, 2015, 12:22am

^ I know! ;) Maybe his namelessness is some sort of metaphor for his actions. Uh oh, sounds like an essay topic. I won't go there!
I hope you get some time to read- momentum helps. In any book.

Mar 6, 2015, 12:59am

I'm up to chapter 12. Or 13 maybe. In any case, I'm really enjoying it still. Reading a chapter a day or so. Had an eventful day which I took some time to describe on my thread and off to bed now. Wish I could make some interesting comments about the book, but that'll have to wait I guess.

Mar 6, 2015, 1:03am

I've finished the first 22 chapters now, and will be making my way into book two tomorrow. I've noticed a few moments of dialogue that didn't quite flow, and the meeting with Mr. Edgecumbe seemed a little forced as well - although if I hadn't just finished A Fine Balance, I may not be feeling so critical (that book is amazing). But overall, still enjoying the meandering Malaysian journey.

Mar 6, 2015, 2:14pm

>I didn't have many interesting comments early on in the book either, I was just really enjoying the journey I was being taken on. He does paint a lovely picture.

>31 evilmoose: I was surprised when I got to book 2, just because I hadn't been expecting a book 2. Seeing as it deals with the Japanese occupation I guess it warrants a 'new book'.

Mar 11, 2015, 7:52pm

Hoe is the reading going? I read a quite a quick pace, which tells me I was liking it a lot as I can easily just not. Read, that is.m

Edited: Mar 11, 2015, 9:49pm

It's slow going for me, as reading at night and having trouble staying awake through a whole chapter, but not because I'm not enjoying the book, quite the contrary, so I get quite frustrated not being able to stay awake, but I've got too much going on. Just reached chapter 20 which I'll be tackling tonight. I guess the Japanese will be invading the island soon... I'll be reaching the halfway point and I hope finding out some secrets soon?

Mar 11, 2015, 11:09pm

^sorry to hear rl is intruding. Not to mention your recent health scare! I found in the inevitable lead up to the Japanese invasion that our protagonist seemed rather too calm about the while thing.

Edited: Mar 12, 2015, 12:36am

Ok, I finished yesterday and have been trying to gather my thoughts for a review. Really once you hit Book 2 you just have to keep reading.

My thoughts were feeling so organised, and now they're just not! I shall try and straighten them though. Firstly, I enjoyed the writing, and thought the setting was well described, and overall enjoyed the story. But I couldn't sink myself entirely into the book because some of the conversations had such unlikely dialogue - considering how I felt the characters should be behaving and speaking, some of the interactions were just a bit odd. And likewise, some of the actions of the characters - it seemed like telling us, rather than showing us, how things were. The strong relationship between Philip and Endo-San never made total sense to me - it was logical, in a way, but it bothered me that it didn't seem natural, even with the explanation of fate, and past lives. And then when it came to Philip becoming a collaborator? I know that there are people who would do that in any given war - but I found his decision baffling as it really didn't seem to make sense for his character. And maybe that was because I never really got a strong sense of who exactly he was throughout the book...

Definitely an interesting read though, and I enjoyed it overall.

Mar 12, 2015, 4:34am

>36 evilmoose: I just wrote a good response to your review on your thread. Looks like you had a very similar reaction to the book as I did. Just could not reconcile the man with his actions....

Mar 13, 2015, 1:12pm

I just started part 2 last night, and can't say I was surprised when Philip decided to go over to offer to work for the Japanese. After all, that's what he'd been trained up for all along, hadn't he? From the few indirect comments I saw here (didn't read Megan's review or spoilers for obvious reasons), I've gleaned he acts in reprehensible ways in part 2, but he also alludes to that himself in part 1, and I've been preparing myself for that so that I doubt I'll be all that surprised by any of his actions, but of course that remains to be seen. So far I'd say the novel has been a five-star experience for me, both in terms of the story and the writing. We'll see where it goes from here...

Mar 15, 2015, 4:10am

^ah cool! You are loving it :)
And yes, on the "it was on the cards" thing. Philip was always going to be sympathetic to his teacher and his people. I suppose that is what this novel is about, the man/his race? What you can do to help/what you can do to minimise inevitable damage. Never easy moral dilemas.

Mar 23, 2015, 11:47am

My 2 cents (I don't think anything here is a spoiler):

I thought Phillip's personality, training, beliefs, dilemmas, choices, etc were always conflicted by his life-long circumstance of being torn between cultures. There was never a clear or easy path for him. The only way this all made sense was to see it in the context of spiritual eternity (past, current, future lives) ie, to step back and take a wider view. All the while - intimacy matters, self-sacrifice is required, and there is unbearable pain in attempting reconciliation of family, friends and enemies.

Many interesting characters... A strong sense of place... Beautifully written.

5 stars from me... but very hard to read at times.

Mar 23, 2015, 2:35pm

Claudia (>40 -Cee-:) made similar comments on my own thread, and in response I wrote the following, which I'll copy here:

Reading between the lines of the very oblique and short and completely spoiler-free comments I read at the beginning of the group read thread, and then when I started part 1, I got a good idea very early on of what might transpire in the second part, partly also from having read in other novels what the Japanese had done when they had occupied other nations during WWII, so I can't say much of it came as a great surprise. I find Tan Twan Eng is a very good writer and he was able to make me feel Phillip's moral dilemma and also, to make me believe how Phillip, at least initially, could really believe he'd made the best choice at first. But the character evolves through the narration, and does so very convincingly, and I thought that made it a very strong novel.

I rated the novel 4.5 stars. I do intend to write a review soon, and I'll provide a link here when I finally get around to it.