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4.6 out of 5 stars472
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 18 September 2007
I strongly recommend this book to everyone. It's an unusual story set in Malaya in the 1930s, on the eve of the war. I won't go into the synopsis since some of the other reviewers have already done so. It's an exceptional and harrowing read but in the end, inspiring. I'm not surprised to see that it was nominated for the Booker.
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on 4 October 2007
A friend of mine read this in his book club and then couldn't stop boring us telling us how we just had to read it. To stop him from going on endlessly, I did. I have now apologised to him! This is a truly magnificent novel - epic in scope yet it has an ineffable intimacy about it.

"I was born with the gift of rain, an ancient soothsayer in an even more ancient temple once told me." From these evocative first lines, the reader is taken back to another era, another world.

Philip Hutton is one of the most distinctive 'unreliable narrators' in recent literary fiction. If you like writers like Kazo Ishiguro, you will like this too. I have so many favourite characters from this novel - all of them are unforgettable, tragic and so recognisably human, dealing with adversity and tragedy in their own unique ways.

Read it and savour this unexpected and highly polished debut. Like me, you'll soon be telling all your friends about it.
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This first-time author has created a beautiful novel thick with nostalgia and atmosphere. The novel is set in Penang, a fascinating island in Malaya during the British colonial days of the 1930s, and also in present day Penang, when the protagonist, Philip Hutton, now an old man, looks back on his life at the request of a Japanese woman.

I found the writing top-notch and unmelodramatic but simply beautiful and melancholic. The story - I won't spoil the fun - was extremely gripping and yet meditative and made me think of many things: the issues of memory, loss, love, sacrifice, honour, betrayal, family, free-will and fate, religion, history.

The author also uses the art of aikido as a vehicle to carry some of his philosophical points, something which I found effective as this meant the novel was never dragged down by facts.

I will also admit that parts of the book left me in tears, something which hasn't happened to me for a long time while reading a book..

I had trouble buying this book at the big chain stores in London like Waterstones: the staff there had never even heard of it - thank goodness for amazon.

Buy this book - I was recommended this by word of mouth. It will be as popular as The Kite Runner...but better!
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on 27 September 2007
This is one of the most memorable novels I've read and I'd like to recommend it. It's by turns sad, harrowing, and inspiring and passionate. There were certain places where I felt the writing could have been tightened and given stronger focus, but overall, a great read. Highly, highly recommended!
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on 8 April 2008
This book was a powerful portrait of life, love and loyalty in war time. Some of the writing moved me to tears, which is rare for me in a fiction work. The divided loyalty of the main character between his family and his teacher was very well portrayed and even though there were times when you could not understand the reasons why he was so loyal to his teacher, you could at the same time see how it could happen and almost imagine yourself in such a dilemma. This was masterfully done. The contrast between the beauty that the Japenese appreciate and their cruelty in war time was difficult to get to grips with but I think that is part of the point of this story.
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on 5 December 2008
With a unique and interesting mix of the cultural and historical, The Gift of Rain is a long, gruelling walk through a region during times of change; from prosperity, through tyranny and devastation, to its rebirth, all the time following one boy's path as he plays an important role in the proceedings.

As Philip's life pans out, filled with tragedy and pain, you feel as though you endure his trials with him.

An inherently good person, but with weaknesses like anyone else, Philip faces constant internal battles throughout his youth, as his loyalties are split between his family and his mentor.

By the end of the novel, after all you have been through with him, Phillip seems like an old friend, someone you respect; although at times he has let you down, someone you pity; although he wouldn't thank you for it, and someone you care about and understand; no matter how wrong his decision may have felt to you.

Closing this book is sad and sobering, as you can no longer fool yourself that everything will be alright in the end. The suffering and grief that shattered the lives of so many people in the East and worldwide during WW2 is the resounding message you cannot ignore, despite the fictional example of it in this book.
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on 28 June 2007
Was recommended this by friends. It is gripping, heartfelt and mature. The setting is in Penang island during British colonial era, before World War Two. As good as - perhaps even better than - Adichie's Half of A Yellow Sun...
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on 5 September 2013
You might think that a book about the Japanese WWII invasion of Malaya would be as dry as old bones, but fear not! The Gift of Rain is a joy to read and totally absorbing. The beautiful, almost poetic prose of Tan Twan Eng flows effortlessly from page to page. I was in no rush to finish the book, looking forward to escaping into the world of Philip Hutton, his life and his experiences, for as long as possible. The story is hugely evocative of the time and its place in history, without having to resort to over flowery descriptions and cliché characters. Learning new insights into Chinese/Japanese culture and traditions was fascinating. It’s both gentle and violent in equal measure, much more than the simple retelling of a man’s life. It’s about the blossoming of friendship, hope and courage and at the same time, self sacrifice, suffering and living with the consequences of one’s actions and decisions. It’s about having to face one’s worst nightmares and about the power of the human spirit to survive.
Take your time to thoroughly absorb every single word of this wonderful work, you won't regret it.
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on 23 June 2007
I was recommended this by a friend and from reading the reviews on A Thousand Splendid Suns. It is a gorgeous book, but be warned - there are heartbreaking passages and pages. Highly recommended!
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on 10 September 2007
Criminally left out of the Man Booker shortlist this year. This book has all the hallmarks of a classic - engaging and flawed characters questioning all the things which concern us - guilt, pain, love and redemption. Written in stunning prose. Buy this book for yourself and those you love.
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