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The Gift of Rain [Paperback]

Tan Twan Eng
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (346 customer reviews)

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Book Description

10 May 2007
Penang, 1939, sixteen-year-old Philip Hutton is a loner. Half English, half Chinese and feeling neither, he discovers a sense of belonging in an unexpected friendship with Hayato Endo, a Japanese diplomat. Philip shows his new friend around his adored island of Penang, and in return Endo trains him in the art and discipline of aikido. But such knowledge comes at a terrible price. The enigmatic Endo is bound by disciplines of his own and when the Japanese invade Malaya, threatening to destroy Philip's family and everything he loves, he realises that his trusted sensei - to whom he owes absolute loyalty - has been harbouring a devastating secret. Philip must risk everything in an attempt to save those he has placed in mortal danger and discover who and what he really is. With masterful and gorgeous narrative, replete with exotic and captivating images, sounds and aromas - of rain swept beaches, magical mountain temples, pungent spice warehouses, opulent colonial ballrooms and fetid and forbidding rainforests - Tan Twan Eng weaves a haunting and unforgettable story of betrayal, barbaric cruelty, steadfast courage and enduring love.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Myrmidon Books Ltd; New Ed edition (10 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905802056
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905802050
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15.2 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (346 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 319,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

A powerful first novel about a tumultuous and almost forgotten period of history. --Times Literary Supplement

A remarkable book about war, friendship, memory and discipline. --Ian McMillan, BBC Radio 3

Haunting and highly evocative... a deeply moving tale. --Cape Times

About the Author

Tan Twan Eng was born in Penang, but lived in various places in Malaysia as a child. He studied law through the University of London, and later worked as an advocate and solicitor in Kuala Lumpur. He has a first-dan ranking in Aikido and is a strong proponent for the conservation of heritage buildings. He has spent the last year traveling around South Africa, and currently lives in Cape Town where he is working on his second book. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
104 of 107 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great and profound read on the Booker List 3 Sep 2007
Format:Paperback
One of the most readable literary titles on this year's unpredictably eclectic Man Booker Longlist. Highly enjoyable and intricate but without being preachy and tedious. The story of a mixed-blood English young man in pre-war Malaya who befriends a Japanese diplomat.

The writing sometimes rises to poetry without being incomprehensible, and the author never forsakes a strong narrative and a taut and gripping plot, which so many Booker-type novels do. There were one or two points in the book which made me a bit impatient, but coming to the end of the book I understood why those parts were necessary.

My wife and I loved it (she cried at some parts of the book) and will recommend it to our reading-circle. Somehow, life looks subtly different after closing the book...

Hope it'll go onto the short list.
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130 of 135 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Books of the Year 8 Nov 2007
Format:Paperback
The Gift of Rain starts slowly but builds into a gripping, emotionally-disturbing book. The reader is taken through the emotional-growth of the main character, Philip Hutton, as he grapples with his guilt and pain and the choices he had to make when the Japanese attacks Malaya and his home of Penang. At the novel's heart is one of the most unusual stories I have come across. I was drained when I came to the last page, but I felt compelled to read it all over again immediately, this time to savour the lyricism of the writing and descriptions - it was like viewing a Chinese painting come to life.
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215 of 225 people found the following review helpful
By Reader
Format:Paperback
Once I started reading The Gift of Rain I could not put down. For two days I was lost in the amazing world of the people of Malaya in a sad and terrible time in their history on the island of Penang off the west coast of what is now peninsular Malaysia. After putting the book down, the story haunted me so much that I read it a second time.

Let me say first of all that the Gift of Rain is a great, easy and thoroughly entertaining read from its very beginning when deep in the night an elderly Japanese lady brings a sword to the front door of an elderly man who has been trying for 50 years to come to terms with his terrible past.

Like so many great novels this book refuses to be categorized; it has elements of a historical novel, a coming of age story, a war novel, a treatise on martial arts. Martial arts go to the root of Asian philosophy: Daoism, Confucianism and Buddhism are all in the book. Predestination versus free will is one of the book's most important themes. The protagonist Philip Hutton's character is shaped by his struggles at a time of war to balance his duty and his loyalty to his father, his family, his country and the enemy in the form of his beloved martial arts teacher, his sensei, Hayato Endo.

The narrative begins as a reflective and beautifully written coming of age story when the sixteen year old, half Chinese boy, Philip Hutton meets the enigmatic Japanese diplomat Endo-san, who becomes his martial arts master and starts him off on an incredibly exciting but unbearably sad voyage of conflict and self discovery.

When the Japanese invade Malaya the tone and style of the book change. The book turns into a fast moving war story. But war destroys and the war has devastating effects on the lives of all the complex main characters.
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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For those who know Malaysia and those who do not. 8 April 2007
By Wayne
Format:Paperback
An excellent read where the complexities of history and culture come into focus. Set against the contradictions of colonial Malaya and World War II, it looks at how a one country, Japan, can be refined and civilised yet brutal and selfish at the same time. Through the central character it looks at the cultural divide of being from two different cultural backgrounds and not feeling one belongs to either. It introduces a good deal of the Malaysia we see today and will be enjoyed by those who wish to learn more of this country as well as those who know it well. Yet it also taps into the personalities and feelings of the major characters to remind us that history is always about people.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars unusual love story 24 Nov 2007
Format:Paperback
Mr. Twan Eng has written a quite exceptional book although the style of writing is almost old-fashioned. The story line is perfectly paced and the plot is free from clichés. This book is about solitude, the meaning of loyalty, fate, family relationships but mostly about the relationship between two male soulmates who wind up on opposite sides in a world war. It is clear that the protagonist becomes the lover of the Japanese Endo-San who is presented as his ever destined soulmate. This book is first and foremost a love story but Twan Eng's description of this same sex love affair is so subtly protrayed that prejudiced readers (unwilling to accept the fact that two men can fall in love) can easily overlook it and enjoy the book still the same. If anyone is in doubt, thinking that it's just a Platonic friendship, read page 320 where there seems little doubt that Twan Eng is not really describing martial arts fight but in fact Philip and Endo having sex. It's a very tastefully crafted prose. Yet, sometimes I wondered why Twan Eng chooses to disguise the physical nature of this relationship so much sine the unconditional (endless) love Philip holds for Endo is the reason for everything he does and controls the story line.

The only serious shortcoming in this book is that the characterisation is a bit cartoon-like and it's over-emphasis on fate excludes more realistic approach to explore the nature of the relationship between Endo and Philip. The relationship can assumed to be triggered by a typical adoration of a pupil of a master, the pupil, being Philip, feeling left out by his own father and finding a father figure in Endo.

Anyway, this is a beautifully written and gripping story that's well worth reading.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Beautifully written.
Published 1 day ago by Ann Lovatt
3.0 out of 5 stars I received a poor copy but was compensated financially for it
I received a poor copy but was compensated financially for it. A very thought-provoking story - really rate the writer!
Published 3 days ago by Catherine Lillington
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and poetic
This book took me a little while to get into, but I'm glad I persevered. In the end I found it really compelling and an insight into an interesting time and place.
Published 4 days ago by Dr. P. R. Hill
3.0 out of 5 stars Drawn out, meditative saga of one man and his 'sensei' durin Japanese...
I have only given this three stars as after a good start, it felt as though I was going through someone else's psychoanalysis. Read more
Published 8 days ago by Timotea
5.0 out of 5 stars I bought this book after reading and falling in love with Garden of...
I bought this book after reading and falling in love with Garden of Evening Mists. While Evening Mists and Gift share several similarities which some may find a little samey, I... Read more
Published 9 days ago by Samantha Chen Beaton
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fascinating insight into different culture and attitudes during wartime.
Published 12 days ago by Jill W
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating
This as an amazing read - I couldn't put it down! The way the book is written transports you and you feel every part of it. Would definitivdly recommend it.
Published 25 days ago by carole winstone
4.0 out of 5 stars an excellent historical novel
As with The Evening of Garden Mists, an excellent historical novel. A worthy read.
Published 26 days ago by Nicola Clarke
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story !
Loved this book , covered different aspects of war in Malaysia with a family story
Published 29 days ago by Billie E. Robinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Well written, thought provoking book. devoured every word.
Published 1 month ago by Janet Eveline Duncan
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