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The Gift of Rain

4.18  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,584 Ratings  ·  1,058 Reviews
Set in Penang, 1939, this book presents a story of betrayal, barbaric cruelty, steadfast courage and enduring love.

The recipient of extraordinary acclaim from critics and the bookselling community, Tan Twan Eng's debut novel casts a powerful spell. Set during the tumult of World War II, on the lush Malayan island of Penang, The Gift of Rain tells a riveting and poignant ta
Paperback, 447 pages
Published by Myrmidon (first published January 1st 2007)
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Mike C Considering the book is fundamentally about the relationship between two men during war time, I think there are a couple of well rounded female…moreConsidering the book is fundamentally about the relationship between two men during war time, I think there are a couple of well rounded female characters - Michiko, Isabel, and several lesser ones such Aunt Mai, Ming and the ghost of Philip's mother - if there were more women characters and they played a more prominent role in the book, then it would be a different story.(less)

Community Reviews

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"Like the rain, I had brought tragedy into many people's lives but, more often than not, rain also brings relief, clarity, and renewal. It washes away our pain and prepares us for another day, and even another life. Now that I am old I find that the rains follow me and give me comfort, like the spirits of all the people I have ever known and loved."

Twan Eng Tan may not be a great prose stylist or even come close to being one. He may falter when it comes to subtlety and fail at inserting approp
Sep 06, 2013 Kalliope rated it really liked it
When I realized that this book was set in South East Asia I had to plunge into it. SE Asia is one of my favorite areas in the world. Whenever it is mentioned, memories from my visits and from having lived there are immediately summoned back in my mind.

Memories of books, which I hold responsible for first igniting my imagination and fascination with the place, inevitably also spring back. The most memorable are Lord Jim and Somerset Maugham’s Casuarina Tree and Other Stories but perhaps the latt
Jan 08, 2015 Dolors rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those who hear the rain sing
Recommended to Dolors by: Samadrita & Praj
Shelves: read-in-2014
1939, Isle of Penang, Malay. Philip Hutton is a rare bird with inimitable plumage, a bird that only sings with the sound of rain. The workings of history have provided him with so many juxtaposed layers of identity that he can’t unravel his true self or where his loyalties relay. Born to a Chinese mother, the second wife of a British magnate of a large trading company, rejected by his Chinese Grandfather and an outcast among his English pure breed half-siblings, Philip considers himself a mongre ...more
Jul 12, 2014 Praj rated it really liked it
Shelves: tt-eng

It has been exactly twelve days since the onset of monsoons. Not a single dry pair of clothes in the house and yet my enthusiasm is as jubilant as the freshly bathed leaves welcoming the cascading raindrops. After all I had waited for an entire month, my eyes widening at every passing water-laden cloud. The grey skies had fooled me and my despair had found its mate in the curled vermillion petals of the Gulmohar tree. The descendant of the Fabaceae heritage has a bittersweet legacy with the rain
May 25, 2011 Eddie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
When I come across books such as this one, I'm blown away at the amount of people I know who choose not to read. I'm also blown away that a book like this doesn't get as much attention as the Twilight Saga. Twilight makes me want to throw-up on the mere thought of the book being the phenomenon that it is. Books like The Gift of Rain put me in awe, and I think, even though atheist, I hope if there is a heaven, it's as good as this writing. I'm shocked that this was the author's first novel. This ...more
"Set in Penang, 1939, this book presents a story of betrayal, barbaric cruelty, steadfast courage and enduring love."

"The Gift of Rain spans decades as it takes readers from the final days of the Chinese emperors to the dying era of the British Empire, and through the mystical temples, bustling cities,and forbidding rain forests of Malaya." In 1939, sixteen-year-old Philip Hutton - the half-Chinese, half-English youngest child of the head of one of Penang's great trading families - feels al
May 02, 2013 Algernon rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013

The Gift of Rain is a memoir, the journal of a young boy's coming of age amid the turmoil of WWII in Malaya, a lest-we-forget memorial to the victims of war crimes, a melancholy blues sung to a disappearing world : the exotic cauldron of races and cultures in colonial Penang that is being swallowed up by modern, impersonal highrise developments. I was ready to be enchanted right from the opening stanza, a quote from The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby :

I am fading away.
Jul 25, 2008 Macy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best books I've read in years. At it's core it's about doing the right thing in a very gray world -- a world where the right thing and the wrong thing are hardly distinguishable. It's about moving forward after you've made a choice.

I wept for the staggering grief in Phillip Hutton's life, and I applauded the young man who set forth to do the right thing, no matter how murky that might be.

In addition to the great story, the author did a stellar job with invoking the setting a
Jan 19, 2015 Tony rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii, malaysian
I really liked The Garden of Evening Mists, Tan Twan Eng's second novel. The cover was beautiful; the subject (Malaya during WWII) was important if somewhat obscure; and the main character, Yun Ling, was wise and strong (and vengeful) but an enigma. Intricate Japanese gardens and body tattoos would serve a metaphorical purpose.

Twan Eng's debut novel, The Gift of Rain, covers the same moment in time in Malaya. It's a good story - Twan Eng can tell a story - but it lacks the writer's touches of hi
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
The setting is the island of Penang, off the coast of Malaya. The population is a complex mix of races, ideologies, and income levels. Chinese, Japanese, Malays, British, Indians, and many people of mixed race share this tiny island and have a history of tensions and race/class divisions. However, they've managed to find ways to live together in relative harmony.

When the Japanese occupy the island during World War II, concerns for personal and family safety lead to treachery and betrayal among t
Jul 06, 2014 Gearóid rated it it was amazing
Five stars.....ten stars....who cares...this book is just brilliant!!!!
The first half of this book is quite chilled....very nice and beautiful to read
about aikido and Chinese history and life in Penang but you know things are going
to take a turn for the worse....
The second half.....all of a sudden the whole scene changes to one of savage cruelty
and brutality.
I just couldn't put the book down and felt compelled to finish the book in one day.
Which I did and it was brilliant!
Beautifully written an
Apr 11, 2016 Deea rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Deea by: Dolors
"The road was lined with magnificent homes dating back to the 1920s. Many had been demolished, but in the geography of my memory I saw them every day, entire, complete, standing proudly in a row. And in my memory I recalled the people who had lived there, who had passed through those homes; the scandals and the tragedies of their lives."
For Philip Hutton, present is a scar of the past. In his old age, he can only open his eyes inward and relive his past, a past which has been witness to both
Aug 17, 2008 Lori rated it it was ok
I know this book got some rave reviews, but about halfway thru I almost abandoned it. Which is odd because when I started it, I was fully engrossed and had that happy feeling of finding a book that I looked forward to nestling with and entering. I found the writing to be too flowery, and I also got bored. I did skim the rest of the book, which says alot since once I decide I'm bored I usually completely abandon it. I wanted to know what happened, and historically it's fascinating. But the heart ...more
Jan 07, 2011 Chrissie rated it liked it

This book is clearly a mixed bag for me. It is in short about Philip, the son of a British father and Chinese mother, and his relationship with his Japanese sensei. It takes place in Malaya during WW2 when the Japanese occupied the country, sending the British running for their lives. The friendship between Philip and his older Japanese teacher, his sensei, begins before the occupation, before Philip ever became aware of the conflict of interests that will arise between the Malayan in
Connie (Ava Catherine)
This is my new favorite book! I was taken in by the first sentence; by the second chapter, I knew I had a winner on my hands. This is a beautiful, sad story told in the most exquisite language. Each sentence is a jewel. It is a book I'll read over and over again. It is a book to recommend to my best friends.

In 1939 sixteen-year-old Philip Hatton, who is half Chinese and half British, doesn't feel that he fits in anywhere. He becomes friends with another outsider Hayato Endo, who is a Japanese d
Sep 13, 2014 Abby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Sometimes a good story, reasonably well told, is enough. And this is a hell of a good story in a beautifully evoked and exotic setting -- Malaya in 1939 and through the war. Philip Arminius Khoo-Hutton, a lonely sixteen-year-old whose Chinese mother died when he was a child, feels estranged from his prominent British colonial family and forms an ever-closer and more powerful connection with Hayato Endo, a Japanese diplomat and aikido master. Endo-san becomes Philip's sensei, both martial arts tr ...more
Nov 20, 2008 Felicity rated it liked it
This book probably deserves something more than 3 stars, but less than 4. The historical background of WWII in Penang, Malaysia, and Singapore was fascinating. But I wonder if the book would have been as interesting without this background...rather than being character-driven, it was event-driven. There are plenty of precedents for authors using actual historical events to create a great story, but in this case, I felt the characters just needed a little more substance. Nonetheless, still an abs ...more
Breathtaking in its scope and stunningly impactful in its storyline, The Gift of Rain is set in Penang, Malaysia in the twilight years of the British Empire and the onslaught of the Japanese army as British forces flee that country during World War II.

The story centers around Philip Hutton, son of Noel Hutton from one of Penang’s wealthiest British trading families and a Chinese mother, whose father disowned her following her marriage. Never having felt like he fit in with the local community -
May 23, 2008 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: debut-novel, war
In a glib mood, I would summarize this as "The Karate Kid meets The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles," but that doesn't really do justice to the emotional power of this story about a half-British, half-Chinese teen in 1940s Malaya who befriends a newly arrived Japanese diplomat and begins to study aikido from him, then gradually learns that he's being used as a pawn in the buildup to a military invasion. It's a drama about family, about friendship, about war, about karmic cycles, and about coming to term ...more
Dick Reynolds
Mar 12, 2014 Dick Reynolds rated it it was amazing
Sixteen-year-old Phillip Hutton is the protagonist of this beautifully written and deeply moving novel set on the Malayan island of Penang. It’s 1939 at the outset of World War II and not a good place for those who live there. Phillip is the youngest son of Englishman Noel Hutton and his second wife, a much younger Chinese woman who died many years earlier. In a beautiful scene of father and son communication, Noel tells Phillip of the night he was conceived. This fact of his parentage puts Phi ...more
Dec 29, 2009 Jinny rated it liked it
Like another reviewer here, I think there's something about this book that bespeaks a neophyte author -- but a skilled one, and one whose next work I'll anticipate eagerly.

Lots of description, but it's lush and luminous and evokes a sensuous sense of place. I enjoyed the characterizations (especially of the narrator). Philip Hutton is a sympathetic character, as he is torn between two ways of looking at, and living, life: accepting our non-control, and recognizing that we make choices. I was gl
Jul 25, 2012 John rated it it was ok
I have very mixed feelings about this book. Tan Twan Eng's portrait of prewar (World War 2, of course) Penang is so rich in historical and sensory detail that I totally fell in love with the city. This kept me reading even when my heart continued to sink from the weight of the author's morally vacuous and fatuously self-justifying teenage narrator and his relationship with his manipulative Japanese mentor/lover. This would be a tragedy of sorts if the author had been less enthralled by his inven ...more
Mar 11, 2016 Grace rated it it was amazing
My thoughts on the Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng.

I must admit that for the past several months I have been meandering like a lost soul amongst the pages of various books, searching for comfort , for solitude, for kinship amongst the characters, but my journey was in vain.
I had almost given up my search, because my mind has been in a turmoil and the books i sought refuge in had nothing to offer me...

And then I was lured, like an unwitting wanderer ,by quotes that Bindu posted regularly on BE.
Linda Robinson
Aug 07, 2012 Linda Robinson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Destiny or free will. Duty or honor. Family or country. Loyalty or betrayal. A thousand thousand lifetimes to seek balance and harmony. And for whom? Early in the story, a fortune teller in a snake temple tells the half British-half Chinese Philip Hutton that he has the gift of rain. The long painful history of China and Japan, and both countries' experience of the British is melded with the sanctity of the sensei/student bond in aikijutsu, and the piercing pain of loving another country's daugh ...more
Mar 09, 2016 Shauna rated it it was amazing
Eng writes with an amazing ability to place vivid images in my mind. His prose is lyrical and I couldn’t stop reading, feasting on these pictures. What is loyalty? How do you show love for your family? Set among the atrocities of World War 2 in Malaya, Eng creates beauty even as you try to avert your eyes. I will re-read this book!

Favortie Quotes:
“…the great human capacity for choosing not to see.”

“Do not let your ties to the past – or fear of the future – direct the course of your life, becaus
Feb 06, 2010 Marilyn rated it really liked it
If you are looking for a cheery, 'happy ending' kind of book then this isn't the one for you! I love historical fiction that lets me learn about a particular period of history and, if it is set in some exotic location, so much the better. I didn't know anything about the Japanese occupation of Malay before reading this book. The author has a wonderful way of letting the reader 'see' the places he is describing. My two complaints about the book are first that I never really liked Endo-san very mu ...more
Apr 14, 2009 Marianne rated it it was amazing
When Philip Hutton, son of a distinguished English family meets Endo-san, a Japanese master of martial arts, his life in 1939 Malaysia changes profoundly. The Japanese invade his land and the next four brutal years test Philip's loyalty to his family, country, and teacher. The writing is lyrical and vivid,evoking the scents, weather, beauty, and oppression of this tropical country. This would be a great book club book: the characters are complex, the situation is full of paradox, and the moral a ...more
Jun 23, 2008 Carol rated it really liked it
This was so beautifully written. One of the themes explored was the sense of duty - to one's country, to one's tutor, to one's parents - that is much stronger in Asian cultures than in western ones and is sometimes difficult to understand. It asks the questions, what would you do for the people you love? Does it make it any less wrong if you murder someone/lie/cheat, etc., if you are doing it to save someone you love?
Oct 21, 2014 Marion rated it really liked it
Tan has written a masterful, complex novel exploring issues of fate vs. free will, love, betrayal, duty, family. The novel is set at the dawn of WWII as Japan prepares to invade Malay and it portrays many of the horrors of the war. But, ultimately, it's a story about the power of love.
Apr 08, 2014 Weezie rated it really liked it
Beautifully written! Values so different yet so similar to my own. Loved it!!
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Their love was romantic. 6 93 Feb 01, 2016 08:14PM  
Bright Young Things: The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng 16 68 Jun 16, 2013 05:56AM  
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Tan Twan Eng was born in 1972 in Penang, but lived in various places in Malaysia as a child. He studied law at the University of London and later worked as lawyer in one of Kuala Lumpur’s most reputable law firms. He also has a first-dan ranking in aikido and is a strong proponent for the conservation of heritage buildings.

Tan Twan Eng talked about his background, his second novel, and his writing
More about Tan Twan Eng...

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“To have memories, happy or sorrowful, is a blessing, for it shows we have lived our lives without reservation.” 24 likes
“Accept that there are things in this world we can never explain and life will be understandable. That is the irony of life. It is also the beauty of it.” 17 likes
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