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The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng
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The Gift of Rain (2007)

by Tan Twan Eng

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8566715,672 (4.14)1 / 277
  1. 20
    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.
  2. 20
    An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro (bibliobibuli)
    bibliobibuli: The Gift of Rain was greatly influenced by this book.
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English (65)  Finnish (1)  All languages (66)
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The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng is a story set in Malaya in World War Two told through the eyes of Philip Hutton, a young man who feels like an outsider in his own family.

There are many aspects of this wonderful book that I really enjoyed:


The main protagonist Philip doesn’t feel that he belongs in either culture, being half Chinese with a Chinese mother, Khoo Ui Lian, and a British father. His Grandather Khoo is estranged from the family too. In time his grandfather takes Philip to the Leong San Thong Dragon Mountain Hall temple built by the clan association of the Khoo. His grandfather accuses Philip of “the great human capacity for choosing not to see.” He predicts that his choices will never be the completely correct ones,” and “That is your tragedy.” But growing up of mixed parentage, “that is your strength.” I related to this in some ways, as I am also of mixed parentage, my father is Scottish and my mother is a Eurasian from Malaysia.

Philip is not close to his siblings Edward, William and Isabel therefore it is not altogether surprising that he is attracted to a Japanese man, Endosan, an outsider, who appears to be so powerful that he says: “Now you will always remember me as the man who taught you to touch heaven.”

The references to martial arts added another aspect to the story that I really enjoyed – Under the influence of Endosan’s (Mr Hayato Endo) tutelage in Aikijitsu, Philip becomes very close to him, so much so that he trusts him with details that maybe he should not. He must make one of two horrendously difficult choices either to work with or against the Japanese during the occupation of Malaya.

It is a novel that encourages the reader to engage with the author thinking about life-changing choices and consequences. Philip takes a different path from his friend Kon, even though they started off on a similar route both learning Japanese martial arts. Ultimately, the choices that the two young men make lead them in conflicting directions. Even though Philip isn’t close to his family he does want to protect them and his father’s business from harm. But, his good intentions do not have the desired effect, in fact his ploy seems to work against him in many ways, destroying lives, and making the divide between himself and his father and sister much greater.t Later he tries to make amends, fearful for his life and his family’s life after witnessing the terrible atrocities carried out in the Kempeitai cleansing campaign.

The Gift of Rain acts as a confessional taking the reader into the heart of the main protagonist. It is told through the perspective of an aging Philip confessing his life story to an elderly sick Japanese woman who has appeared at his doorstep unannounced. Both Michiko and Philip share a love for Mr Hayato Endo, and therefore Philip feels comfortable sharing this story with her, as he believes she if anyone will understand why he chose the path that he did. There is a sense in the story of everything in life being connected, a continuum of many lives in which Philip will meet Endosan again and again.

Tan Twan Eng weaves a tale of dreadful cruelty entwined with cultural niceties. That breathes life into the story, one only has to experience Goro’s cruelty with the piano playing episode in the book to see this strange partnership in action.

Tan Twan Eng uses highly effective themes of delicate butterflies and fireflies, and a family portrait taken before Philip’s brother goes off to fight to suggest the fragility, and wonder of life. At a particularly sad, and heart-wrenching point in The Gift of Rain, we are told that: “I never saw any butterflies.”

It questions what we consider to be fair and just in a war. It is a world in which the family chauffeur will eventually feel justified in betraying a member of the family, as he considers that: “This is justice.”

There is a sense that those pre-war days were magical. Life cannot ever be the same again: “But those were magical days just before the threads that bound the world became unravelled.”

I love the fortune teller aspect of the novel, and the concept of the gift of rain. The fortune teller in the Temple of Azure Cloud told Philip: “You were born with the gift of rain. Your life will be abundant with wealth and success. But life will test you greatly. remember – rain also brings the flood.” She also says: of Endo-san: ‘He’s a Jipunakui – a Japanese ghost. I do not read their futures. Beware of him.”

I love that it is set in Malaysia. Particularly at this time in history as I have heard stories from my mother passed down from her family about Malaya during the Japanese occupation. Tan Twang Eng depicts the setting so wonderfully that you just feel as if you are there and it does make you wonder what would you would have been prepared to do to keep your family safe if you were in Malaya at that time.

So a thoughtful novel which I really enjoyed from start to finish. I would highly recommend it to readers who enjoy Historical fiction, Cultural, War, and Asian literature.

Full review at https://kyrosmagica.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/my-kyrosmagica-review-of-the-gift-o...




( )
  marjorie.mallon | Mar 27, 2019 |
The "Gift of Rain" is about the influences on one's life, the choices one makes in life, and their ever-lasting impact. Philip Hutton, the story's protagonist, chooses to work for the Japanese to secure the safety of his family in the war but his family didn't agree with his actions. Then to ward off the threats of the locals against them, he chose to provide information to the locals and helped to save the lives of many. It is not very clear what exactly he did, and the story of him and his teacher was slightly confusing. But overall the story-line is a strong one, and interesting. What is also good is Tan's evocative writing. When he describes atmosphere and environment, you can visualise them and can almost hear the sounds described. ( )
  siok | Mar 3, 2019 |
This is the story of 16 year old Phillip Hutton. He is half Chinese, half English and from a prominent family in Penang. While his siblings and father are away on vacation, he chooses to stay home alone. He gets to know Hayato Endo who is a Japanese diplomat. Philip spends time showing Endo around and in return Endo teaches him Japanese and aikido. When the Japanese invade Malaya, Phillip learns that Endo is a Japanese spy. It is clear that Endo has taught Philip aikido to help save his life and possibly the life of his family.



This is a pretty good book. I have to admit I had a hard time getting into it. I don't think it was the book's fault, though. I think it was when I was trying to read it, so I don't want to judge it too harshly. I did like the characters. Endo-san and Phillip develop almost a father/son relationship. Since Phillip's mother had died when he was a baby, and she was his Chinese ancestor, he never felt as close to his father and half siblings. This book does a good job mixing the three cultures together - Western, Chinese, and Japanese.



I have read a lot of WWII books/pre-WWII books, but this is the first one from Southeast Asia. I recommend trying it out. ( )
  JenMat | Jan 10, 2019 |
Beautifully brutal. One of the most heart-wrenching stories I've ever read. ( )
  _debbie_ | Aug 10, 2018 |
Japanese occupation of Malaya ( )
  JackSweeney | Jul 7, 2018 |
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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)

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Myrmidon Books

An edition of this book was published by Myrmidon Books.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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