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History of the Rain (2014)

by Niall Williams

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5583040,581 (4.16)1 / 135
Ruthie Swain, the bedridden daughter of a dead poet, tries to find her father through stories -- and through generations of family history in County Clare.
  1. 10
    The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (tangledthread)
    tangledthread: there is something about the feel of these two books that remind me of one another.

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» See also 135 mentions

English (29)  Latvian (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
Ruth Swain is confined to bed upstairs in her childhood home, surrounded by her father’s extensive book collection. She is on a journey to read all of his books, while also discovering more about her father and his family history. This novel is Ruth’s way of documenting her personal journey. While she begins several generations earlier, the narrative is fluid and periodically shifts to present-day events, especially those pertaining to Ruth’s illness.

Ruth’s paternal line was made up of headstrong men, battling a legacy of unreasonably high standards but perpetuating those standards into the next generation. That is, except for Ruth’s father Virgil. Her story of Virgil’s early life, marriage to her mother Mary, and a father’s deep love for his family. But their lives are also ones of social awkwardness, economic hardship, and tragedy. Details unfold very slowly, often alluded to more than explicitly stated, generating an emotional tension that continues to build until its dramatic release and moving resolution.

This novel is meticulously crafted and beautifully written. Highly recommended. ( )
  lauralkeet | Mar 27, 2023 |
Nineteen year old Ruth Swain lies in her top floor bed dying of a blood disorder. As this is set in Faha in County Cork, Ireland, the rain comes incessantly down.

She is surrounded by thousands of volumes of books which her father, a not very successful poet, accumulated over the course of his life.

She contemplates her family history – how her grandfather acquired this 12 acre impossibly unsuccessful farmland in an attempt to impress his father – what the blurb on the back of the book calls the “ dogged pursuit of the Swains' Impossible Standard and forever falling just short”. Father and grandfather became obscessed salmon fisherman and the sport is also featured heavily.

I really wanted to like this book, but I found it slow and heavy. Death, rain, and never measuring up do not make a read to tackle if you are struggling within yourself as you read this. I could appreciate the lovely writing and characterizations. I will try another of Mr. Williams’ books, but can’t see myself rereading this one. 3.5 stars ( )
  streamsong | Sep 23, 2022 |
This mispronunciations are putting me off, not going to finish ( )
  daaft | Aug 13, 2022 |
This is another beautifully written story by Niall Williams. The story is told from the point of view of a 19-year-old girl who is battling a life-threatening blood disorder. Ruth Swain lives in Faha, Ireland, and in this book she outlines the life and times of her own family as well as most of the people in the village. She does this while lying sick in her bed up in the attic room while listening to the rain drumming on the skylights and she is surrounded by 3,000+ books that she inherited from her father. What made the book so special besides the beautiful language and the empathy and sincerity on every page was the book titles that kept dropping into he book from Ruth's memory like the rain on the roof. Not only the titles, but the authors, publishers and the year the book was printed Not only has she read them all, but she remembers all the details from them. She starts her story as a way of bringing her father to life, and to also find a way to understand her literary, poetic father. Her stories begin in the past with her grandfather and grandmother, on towards her father and mother, and finally with Ruth and her twin brother Aeney. The story unfolds like a dream, and even though, at the beginning, it jumps back and forth between timeframes the continuity of the stories about the Swains remains intact. I really can't think of any author currently that writes with the heart and empathy and beautiful language that Niall Williams writes with. I think the closest comparison that I can come to is William Butler Yates. He too had this incredible skill which made all his work timeless. Ruth often refers to him throughout the book, and he was her father's favourite writer as well. This is a book to savour and enjoy and take your time with. I listened to it on audiobook, but most of my listening was done while sitting and listening only to this. I didn't want to miss a single word. Highly recommended. ( )
  Romonko | Apr 24, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
Williams's rendering of the desolation of grief is affecting, as is the sympathy he evokes for the spirited Ruth's plight. Yet he can't seem to resist cliche and sentimentality, leaving the waterlogged reader longing for dry land.
added by ozzer | editThe Guardian, Catherine Taylor (Aug 7, 2014)

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Niall Williamsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Handels, TanjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ortelio, MassimoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Everything is on its way to the river

                            Ted Hughes
For Chris, in the rain
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The longer my father lived in this world the more he knew there was another to come.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Ruthie Swain, the bedridden daughter of a dead poet, tries to find her father through stories -- and through generations of family history in County Clare.

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Book description
Bedbound in her attic room, beneath the falling rain, in the margin between this world and the next, Plain Ruth Swain is in search of her father. To find him, enfolded in the mystery of ancestors, Ruthie must first trace the jutting jaw lines, narrow faces and gleamy skin of the Swains from the restless Reverend Swain, her great-grandfather, to grandfather Abraham, to her father, Virgil - via pole-vaulting, leaping salmon, poetry and the three thousand nine hundred and fifty-eight books piled high beneath the skylight in her room, beneath the rain.

The stories - of her golden twin brother Aeney, their closeness even as he slips away; of their dogged pursuit of the Swains' Impossible Standard and forever falling just short; of the wild, rain-sodden history of fourteen acres of the worst farming land in Ireland - pour forth in Ruthie's still, small, strong hopeful voice. A celebration of books, love and the healing power of the imagination, this is an exquisite funny moving novel in which every sentence sings.
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