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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary Book - a very Irish tragedy
Ruth lies in a bed dying, presumably of a neurodegenerative disease, describing the lives of her family and forefathers in literary reference. Hers is the search for the soul of her father, a compulsive reader and book collector. She believes that she will find him in the 3500 books that are stacked up in her bedroom.
"History of the Rain" is an...
Published 5 days ago by Rashers

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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Oh, a wan cloud was drawn o'er the dim weeping dawn
On the surface, History Of The Rain is beautifully crafted. Ruth Swain, probably twenty-something and a university graduate, lies in bed in the attic of her family's County Clare home, quietly dying. Probably. Perhaps to fill the boredom, she decides to tell her family history. Armed with a few facts, she invents and hypotesizes; creates dialogue, meetings, motives... She...
Published 1 month ago by MisterHobgoblin


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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Oh, a wan cloud was drawn o'er the dim weeping dawn, 4 Aug 2014
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
On the surface, History Of The Rain is beautifully crafted. Ruth Swain, probably twenty-something and a university graduate, lies in bed in the attic of her family's County Clare home, quietly dying. Probably. Perhaps to fill the boredom, she decides to tell her family history. Armed with a few facts, she invents and hypotesizes; creates dialogue, meetings, motives... She has access to her father's library of books, numbering over 3,000, which she references painstakingly throughout the story; and she has an obsession with the Salmon of Knowledge. Ruth has a lively, playful voice and engages in direct conversation with the reader.

Just as some Irish writers - William Trevor and John B Keane come to mind - provide a straight narration of a village of idiots, here we find Ruthie taking ordinary, modern people and trying to cast them in the humorous stereotypes of yesterday's novels. Indeed, the title "History of the Rain" might even have been chosen as a kind of opposite to John McGahern's "That They May Face The Rising Sun". Ruth christens characters based on their traits or over-used phrases, but there's no sense that these nicknames have a generalisability beyond the narrative. They may be portrayed as imbecilic from time to time, but only to suit Ruth's higher narrative purpose.

Sadly, the higher narrative purpose lacks direction. We hop, skip and jump all over time and space, but there is precious little storyline. We are led to expect some kind of cataclysmic tragedy - and how we are made to wait for it - that when it comes it is an anti-climax.

Individual passages can be funny, apposite, meaningful. But taken together they are pretty forgettable. The family relationships can get quite blurry, which is an achievement for a family that is essentially nuclear. The constant references to Irish mythology and the Irish financial crisis never seem to lead anywhere. They simply lend an air of both the erudite and the contemporary without ever seeming to have a point. Actually, towards the very end, we do see why Ruth might have such a fixation with salmon and rain, but it feels forced.

Plotless novels can work - and Niall Williams even puts this thought into Ruth's pen near the end. But they have to rely on depth of characterisation; personal development; lyricism; power of language. Something. Anything. What that "anything" might be is just not sufficiently clear in History Of The Rain.

Perhaps familiarity breeds contempt; perhaps a reader who had never come across the Irish village novel might see something of value in here. To this reader, though, it felt like a battle of attrition to keep the pages turning.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary Book - a very Irish tragedy, 11 Sep 2014
This review is from: History of the Rain (Hardcover)
Ruth lies in a bed dying, presumably of a neurodegenerative disease, describing the lives of her family and forefathers in literary reference. Hers is the search for the soul of her father, a compulsive reader and book collector. She believes that she will find him in the 3500 books that are stacked up in her bedroom.
"History of the Rain" is an extraordinary book - a winding narrative that describes the weather and economic woes of the West of Ireland, the history of the anglo-irish and the nature and nurture of an impoverished modern Irish family. It is a very Irish book, one that avoids all of the traditional stereotypes but aptly describes the decimation of rural communities following the 2007 "bust". Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down. Strangely, throughout the early part of the book the narrator hints at what will/has happened - but just tantalisingly so - enough to grip you into the story - you need to know - must know - how the story resolves. Is this a tragedy? Is it a love story? Is it a roadmap to the nearest library - a love note to literature? It is all of the above. Highly recommended.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Irish Misery with a Lighter Heart, 4 Jun 2014
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This is a well written book with well drawn characters to whom tragedies happen one after another, some self inflicted, some random accidents. None seems to have the capacity to break the circle.

And yet the humour and unusual focus of the narrator - who is in bed with what may be an incurable, terminal illness - provides a lightness as well as a spring to keep the story going to the end.

I can hardly say an enjoyable read, but yes I remember it with affection and recommend it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book, beautifully written, 26 Aug 2014
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A wonderful book, beautifully written. It is very lyrical, the story of a well educated, English and reasonably wealthy first world war veteran, who narrowly escaped death at the front and, unsure of his destiny, moves to rural Ireland to start a new unworldly life of fishing and farming of sorts.
The story is told by his grand daughter, now living a simple village life, educated but poor, surrounded by her equally unworldly father's books, glimpsing at her ideas of the generations before, using references from the books to help.
The joy of this book is not in the story, there is little plot, but in the telling. A gripping 'Whodunit' it is not but it is hard not to be engaged and involved in this girl's telling of how she sees life, past and present, from her sick bed.
A meadering story but a great read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great story, cleverly told., 9 Aug 2014
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I loved this book and the way it was written, all the illusions to great works of literature made me want to have access to all those books. It was such a clever way to tell a story and the characters became so real as the book unfolded. As well as telling a story of one family, it described very well life in a small village, where nobody has much, but everybody knows about everybody else and they all pull together in a crisis.
Not always an easy read, but a great read. I was sorry when it ended as I still wanted to carry on reading.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A book lover's book, 27 Aug 2014
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Lyrical with many currents and undercurrents. If the measure of a good book is that you find yourself wanting to go back and re-read sentences and phrases, and find yourself thinking about the characters and their lives long after the covers are closed, then this is an excellent book.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tears and laughter!!, 26 May 2014
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I am a great fan of Niall Williams having been hooked ever since I read Four letters of Love. There is no other author where I read lines over and over just for the sheer poetry of the prose. So this, his first books for some time, seemed at first a complete departure from everything of his that I have read before. The first thing that hit me was the humour in it! I laughed my way the first few chapters, relishing the way that only the Irish can find humour in the mundane, but then the real depth of the story began to envelope me, realising that, as in all families, there are also many tears along the way. Like the previous reviewer I will not reveal any of the plot, but all I will say is have a big box of tissues handy for the last few chapters. All in all a wonderful book!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, 8 Sep 2014
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History of the Rain was a joy from beginning to end. So beautifully written and thought provoking. I sincerely hope it wins the Man Booker.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Heaven knows I'm miserable now...', 9 Aug 2014
By 
John Goddard (Saffron Walden, Essex) - See all my reviews
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Our narrator lives in the furthest house of a remote (but beautifully described) village on the banks of the Shannon in County Clare, Ireland. This is important.
But what is vital is that she lives in her bed surrounded by thousands of books, in which she is seeking her father. This is an exquisite tale of love and loss, weaving the generations of one family into a single story. At times there is an almost poetic quality to the writing, but for a while you are left wondering what the real story is and where the author is leading you. And then you realise you are hooked. Niall Williams plays the reader like a fly fisherman plays the salmon. I was caught.
I loved the author's earlier work, Four Letters of Love, and noticed a number of similarities between that and this - particularly in the idea of the tortured temperament of the artist and poet. But most of all I enjoyed the experience of reading them both and look forward to re-reading them in the future.
Some reviewers have suggested that this is a miserable book? It is certainly riddled with tragedy. But strength, resilience, hope and beauty are also firmly in view.
Oh, and it rains, a lot.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read..., 20 Aug 2014
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A great book both in style and content, really enjoyable. Very well written, sensitive, and good treatment of characters. Well-deserved place on Booker longlist and hopefully will proceed further.
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History of the Rain
History of the Rain by Niall Williams (Hardcover - 10 April 2014)
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