The Gift of Rain
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The Gift of Rain

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  3,792 ratings  ·  761 reviews
Set in Penang, 1939, this book presents a story of betrayal, barbaric cruelty, steadfast courage and enduring love.
Paperback, 447 pages
Published by Myrmidon (first published March 8th 2007)
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Samadrita
"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 appropr...more
Kalliope
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...more
Praj
Jul 12, 2014 Praj rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
Eddie
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
Algernon

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....more
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...more
Macy
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...more
Lori (Hellian)
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
Chrissie
NO SPOILERS

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...more
Abby
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
Gary
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...more
Felicity
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
Connie
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...more
Jinny
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...more
Ron
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
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
Linda Robinson
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
Shauna
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...more
Marianne
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
Carol
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?
Felice
In 1939 life in Malaya (now called Malaysia) changed forever. The haze of British colonialism, class structures, calm and everyday life disappeared with the invasion of the Japanese. Author Tan Twan Eng uses this dramatic backdrop for his novel The Gift of Rain, a vivid coming of age story. And. A 2007 Man Booker nominee.


When the novel opens a surprise visit from a stranger forces Philip Hutton to look back on the changes that over took his life fifty years earlier when he was a young man. It w...more
Brooke
I wish I could give it 4 1/2 stars. I REALLY liked it! Beautifully written, extremely poignant, fascinating history...but it wasn't a book that I think I could ever read again so that it why I didn't give it 5 stars. There was something reminiscent of Gail Tsukiyama's writing in his ability to write about horrifying things yet still impart a feeling of peace! I loved the theme of fate vs. agency and the study of human relationships and what we are willing and able to do out of love is fascinatin...more
Bibliophile
Tan Twan Eng's The Gift of Rain tells the story of Philip Hutton, the half-Chinese, half-English scion of a great merchant family in Penang, Malaysia. Most of the novel takes place during World War II, and Philip's actions under the Japanese occupation of Malaya form the crux of the story. The setting is fascinating and the plot careened forward so I had to keep reading to find out what happened, but the writing was unfortunately not very good, and the characters were two-dimensional in the extr...more
Marilyn
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
Julie
Jan 14, 2012 Julie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everybody, but particularly those interested in martial arts..
Recommended to Julie by: a friend, Kay Mitchell
I haven't found such an amazing and intellegent read in years. This is not your average war story, religious treaty, or Romance novel. Yet it takes place during Japan's devastating invasion of Malaysia, It explores the nature of love through several characters, and it is spiritual in the deepest sense. It starts slowly, but about a fourth of the way through this 432 page book, it takes off and you won't be able to put it down. I have about 30 pages to go and already I miss the characters. It cou...more
Emily
i am a bit unsure on how to rate this book. even though i thought it was well written and interesting, i think i'll give it two stars because i did not like it. wish i had not started reading it, because once started it was like a train wreck and i couldn't stop. it was heart breakingly sad and i can't get the scenes about the horrors of war out of my head. that being said, i read it. i stayed up quite late reading it, more than one night. that's usually the sign of an extraordinary book for me,...more
William
What a marvelous story bringing together the cultures of the Chinese, the Japanese, and the British.
A strong tale about duty, dignity, and love of family.
Susan Rumsey
This unforgettable story is set during the time when the Japanese invaded Malaysia. It is a work of fiction and contains an enormous amount of interesting historical fact but never gets bogged down by the detail. On the contrary, it left me with a hunger to find out more. It is primarily a book about moral ambiguity, courage, loyalty, love, sorrow, honour, duty and redemption. The story starts off with an aging Phillip Hutton meeting a mysterious Japanese woman, whose great love for a deceased m...more
Carole
This novel is wonderful! The story unfolds quietly in late 1995 when a mysterious Japanese woman knocks at the door of Phillip Hutton (a man of mixed parentage - English father and Chinese mother) and asks about the great love of her life Hayato Endo (Endo-san). As they reminisce the story returns to the city of 1939 Penang before the invasion of the Japanese in 1941. This is Phillip's life - an extremely wealthy and privileged young man not yet graduated from high school who doesn't know where...more
Michele
Transporting
This is a beautifully written story about love and loyalty, friendship and family. Set during World War II amid the Japanese occupation of Malaya, there is a rich blend of cultures and conflicts, personal and global. The narrator, Philip, is a child of dual heritage (British and Chinese) who recounts his struggle to find his place in a chaotic world. From a vantage point some 50 years after the War, he explains his past actions leading to his decisions to work with the Japanese to a...more
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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
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“To have memories, happy or sorrowful, is a blessing, for it shows we have lived our lives without reservation.” 11 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.” 10 likes
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