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History of the Rain

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,464 Ratings  ·  493 Reviews
We are our stories. We tell them to stay alive or keep alive those who only live now in the telling. In Faha, County Clare, everyone is a long story...

Bedbound in her attic room beneath the falling rain, in the margin between this world and the next, Plain Ruth Swain is in search of her father. To find him, enfolded in the mystery of ancestors, Ruthie must first trace the
Hardcover, 358 pages
Published April 10th 2014 by Bloomsbury Publishing
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Jane I found History of the Rain slow going at first as well. I read the whole book rather slowly. I think it kind of demands that kind of pace. It's not…moreI found History of the Rain slow going at first as well. I read the whole book rather slowly. I think it kind of demands that kind of pace. It's not so much driven by plot although the plot's more driven by setting, by language and by the utterly gorgeous sentences. I found myself reading it aloud in what was some hybrid of an Irish brogue because that's how I wanted to hear it in my head. That takes time. It's hyperbolic, and ordinarily I wouldn't like that, but I felt that language was earned every time. I am so glad I read this book. I copied many passages, but I think this is a book I'm going to have to own. I already plan to buy it for two of my brothers. Stay with it, Dolly. If you aren't hooked by page 100, I'll be surprised.(less)
Margo Mcguirk Didn't know you could win books through this site. As for the book, worth reading if you are patient and curious to know what happens. Also, if you…moreDidn't know you could win books through this site. As for the book, worth reading if you are patient and curious to know what happens. Also, if you were reared in Ireland and the rain and different traditions are part of life. (less)
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy FowlerThe Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard FlanaganThe Bone Clocks by David MitchellHistory of the Rain by Niall WilliamsThe Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt
2014 Man Booker Prize Longlist
4th out of 13 books — 86 voters
The Goldfinch by Donna TarttAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony DoerrThe Invention of Wings by Sue Monk KiddThe Circle by Dave EggersThe Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
Man Booker Prize Eligible 2014
15th out of 165 books — 669 voters

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Community Reviews

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A novel of beauty and grace, showing again that Niall Williams is more than a writer, he is a composer who elicits music from the magical combination of letters we know as words.

Young Ruth Swain has returned home from university to convalesce in her attic bedroom, where the rain of Co. Clare pours ceaselessly on the two windows above her head, and three thousand, nine hundred and fifty eight volumes of classic prose and poetry surround her in teetering stacks. Her father is gone and Ruth seeks
B the BookAddict
Jun 23, 2015 B the BookAddict rated it it was amazing
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Terri Jacobson
I picked up History of the Rain after reading the review by my good GR friend Terri. I am indebted to her for bringing the novel to my attention.

Plain Ruth Swain is one of the most appealing characters I have met in a long time. There is nothing plain about Ruth, in my opinion, as she writes in her “still, small, strong, hopeful voice.” Confined to her bed and with her golden twin already slipped away from her, she is a reader. Like many of the infirm, she views the world from a different viewp
Jun 21, 2015 Phrynne rated it it was amazing
I would give that six stars if I could. It was perfect. I loved the watery theme, the rain , the rivers, the salmon, even the mud and the floods. The descriptions of Ireland were spot on and some of the observations of the people were laugh aloud funny. I found Ruth to be an endearing heroine and loved all the other main characters as well. At times it was a sad book, at other times it was hopeful and uplifting. It was full to the brim with literary references as well as current day politics and ...more
"There's a book inside you. There's a library inside me."

I woke up thinking about this novel, and I almost regret dedicating my morning to finishing it. But sometimes a story begs to be devoured.

Sometimes, you can tell an author is a devout reader through their writing. Niall Williams clearly is one of these types, based on History of the Rain. So, of course, I love him the more for it. This is a story of family, history, love, tragedy, Ireland, and books. And it's probably my favorite Man Boo
Aug 21, 2015 Carolyn rated it it was amazing

"This, Dear Reader, is a river narrative. My chosen style is The Meander."

Ruth Swain, 19 years old is lying ill in her attic bedroom in her big boat bed, hand built by her father, surrounded by the almost 4000 books belonging to her father, Virgil. She is watching the interminable Irish rain through her window and writing a history of her family.

This is a wonderful, lyrical history of a family and their relationship with the river Shannon and the land beside it, 'the worst fourteen acres in Irel
Mar 10, 2014 Dawn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads-won
I received a copy of this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

Three quarters of the way through this book, I thought I knew what my review would say. I was going to tell you how "History of the Rain" by Niall Williams is one of the best books I've read; how I've never laughed so much during a book; how the characters pop up out of the page and add so much charm to the story; how reading just a few pages in the morning changed my day.

Having now finished, most of the above is still true.
This book is d-e-p-r-e-s-s-i-n-g! Must it be SO depressing? It doesn't help that the end tries to close with a hopeful note.

The book is about death and illness and how some people demand so much of themselves that they are doomed to fail. It is also about the importance of stories, our stories. There lies the wisp of hope embedded in the book.

There are some beautiful lines, lines that perceptively reveal human relationships and some of descriptive beauty. I did feel the drumming of the rain on
Deborah Meyler
May 21, 2014 Deborah Meyler rated it it was amazing
I've not finished this book yet, but I am tempted to a mid-read review, partly because I don't want it to end. It reminds me slightly of Ulysses except I am enjoying it; perhaps it reminds me of Dubliners. It also reminds me of John McGahern, but it might be that my sampling of Irish literature is too limited to come up with better comparisons. It's very funny, but the humour is soaked through and deepened with tragedy and lost opportunity and resignation, a mood here as perpetual as the rain th ...more
Mar 15, 2016 Antonomasia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Antonomasia by: Booker longlist 2014
Just as I was one of the 'right' readers for its fellow Booker longlister The Wake, I'm a wrong 'un for The History of the Rain - a book which is, so far, effusively well-loved on here.

It's very, very Oirish: whimsy and tragedy and tragical whimsy, eccentric villagers and stone-filled fields and potato blight and poets who won't publish. Ireland is pretty enough but these things - or in some cases the manner in which they're written - just don't do it for me. (As with not liking any sort of bes
Nov 04, 2015 Bonnie rated it it was amazing
This is the most achingly beautiful book I have ever read. There is not one flaw and exceptional beauty. Niall Williams has created poetry out of words and created characters so real they will live on forever. The setting is Faha, Ireland where rain is the only constant. The main character is Ruth Swain, a girl who loves to read and vows to read her father's collection of 3,958 books in order to understand him. Ruth is sickly with a "blood disease" and spends her days in an attic room with skyli ...more
Sep 23, 2014 Rosana rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio-books, 2014
Ruth is the most likeable narrator I have come across in years. It is impossible for anyone who loves books not to fall in love with her and her quest to understand her dead father through the books he read and collected. The story meanders a bit, but to my ears it added a conversational tone that drew me in. There is a saccharine quality to it, and the narrative is full of hyperboles , yet the voice remains fresh and not once I heard a cliché.

The end, maybe too optimistic, made me consider low
Tom Lee
Aug 19, 2014 Tom Lee rated it it was ok
It's a little depressing to see so many Goodreads reviews lauding the grace of this book's writing. It's kind of bad writing! In truth, it uses a pretty formulaic trick to evoke resonance and meaning: overwrought run-on sentences interspersed with smirking, percussive declarations. Pleading, plaintive, frankly embarrassing jumbles of words followed up with overconfident Joss Whedonisms. Read the damn thing again and you'll see. The offense is not absolved by our narrator repeatedly acknowledging ...more
Jun 18, 2015 Camie rated it liked it
Ruth Swain is home from college very ill and lying in a rainy old attic in County Clare Ireland amongst her father's thousands of books and reading them to better understand her father and her other ancestors. She frequently describes what's going on around her among the villagers and her family by using characters from books or references from them citing the book title. There is never much explanation given for why certain books or characters fit certain instances , so if you're not up on your ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I contemplated leaving this book unfinished, but decided to stick it out. I can't say I'm glad I did, as the whole experience left me feeling a bit ambivalent.

That surprises me because on paper I should like this book quite a bit - the story of a sick/dying girl reconnecting with her dead father through his library. But the story meanders quite a bit, and the author (or we can say narrator) Really Likes To Emphasize Ideas With Extra Capital Letters. This is something that is one of my top pet pe
Aug 08, 2014 Elaine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
A very beautiful if imperfect book. Is it a cliche to call an Irish book lyrical? Well, this one is. It's a wistful, tender family saga rooted in a dreamily rain-soaked Irish riverside landscape. It's also sometimes quite funny, as Williams' linguistic creativity bounces off the walls and into various phenomena of contemporary culture (particularly those associated with the Great Recession - the Bust, as he calls it).

I found it quite absorbing and was prepared to be blown away at the beginning.
Jul 17, 2015 Jenny's rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Brilliant! Exquisite! Delightful! Pure Poetry! The best thing I've read so far this year!!!!

"He had no intention of writing. He loved reading, that was all. And he read books that he thought so far beyond anything he himself could dream of achieving that any thought of writing instantly evaporated into the certainty of failure. " -Niall Williams

I don't often covet the gift of writing either. Mostly I'm content just to be a reader of books as well, though reading this one made me wish I was a bet
Peggy Aylsworth
Jun 29, 2014 Peggy Aylsworth rated it it was amazing
This is the most poetically written book I've ever read...and I'm a BIG reader!
Niall Williams makes language as important to the book as its characters or story.
I don't like reviews that tell the whole content of a novel, so I won't be guilty
of that here. To any reader who loves the way a book is written as well as its
"truth." I would highly recommend this one.

I'm a huge fan of John Banville, Mavis Gallant, Jane Gardam to give a small idea of my
Carolyn Francis
Aug 13, 2014 Carolyn Francis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourite-novels
My love for this novel is so intense right now that I am devoid of all words. Feel free to imagine me singing or gesticulating wildly. A proper review will follow when I stop hyperventilating and recover the power of speech.
Sep 01, 2014 Krista rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
We are our stories. We tell them to stay alive or keep alive those who only live now in the telling. That's how it seems to me, being alive for a little while, the teller and the told.

History of the Rain (Book 3959, Bloomsbury, New York) is a quirky kind of book with lyrical Irishness, circular storytelling, poetic narrative, a wise-cracking protagonist, and my God, the rain. It had me rereading sentences and paragraphs to savour the words (sometimes to decipher the meaning), and in two differ
Jun 01, 2015 Senica rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Absolutely incredible. This is the best book I've read in a long time. I laughed and cried and couldn't put it down. Niall williams writes beautifully, and completely draws you into not only the story but the beauty of the written word as well. This is a book whose story will stay with you long after you turn the last page, and I will definitely be checking out his other works.
Ana Ovejero
Jan 07, 2016 Ana Ovejero rated it really liked it
'We tell stories. We tell stories to pass the time, or go more deeply into it. We tell stories to heal the pain of living.'

This is a book about stories, about retelling and the importance of books in the lives of the readers, about finding answers in the pages of books, in poetry, in the flowing of the river, as the salmon does, upcurrent.

Ruth is a teenaged narrator, telling the story of her family. The first one is her grandfather Reverend Swain and the 'Impossible Standard' he sets for himself
Dec 26, 2014 Christi rated it really liked it
I have mixed feelings about this book. When I first started reading it, the writing style just irritated me and I didn't really feel like I was going to like it. It seemed like I was having to work to figure out exactly what was being said and that took away from my enjoyment of the story. Also the capitalization of it seemed like EVERYTHING and the constant habit of not just mentioning other books but listing the name of, number place (in her dad's pile), author, publisher etc....etc....just re ...more
Aug 30, 2014 Carol rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
This is my newest "favorite book!" I rarely give a rating of 5 to my books, but as I closed the cover of The History of Rain, I was looking for a 6 (or 8 or 10!) on my Goodreads page. I had just finished two "OK" books, in which I found myself skimming, so what a delight it was to now read slowly and carefully to savor every well-chosen word. I often went back to re-read sentences and paragraphs; the writing is so beautiful! If this had not been a library book, I may have worn out a highlighter. ...more
Craig Barner
This for me is the first disappointing book by Niall Williams. I wanted to like it. I have read six of his works, three of which were fiction. One of his novels, "Four Letters of Love," is worthy of accolades and among the best works of contemporary literature I have ever read. Plus, as someone who has visited Ireland five times, including to Williams's County Clare, I love anything from what I consider a second home.

More significantly, "History of the Rain" is a literary-inspired novel that exp
Oct 28, 2015 Lucrezia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Ognuno si adatta alla propria storia, è cosí che va il mondo. Nella nostra pioveva e mio padre scriveva poesie nel sottotetto. La pioggia la faceva da padrona. In Il potere e la gloria, o meglio nella mia copia di seconda mano e senza copertina (libro numero 1113) già appartenuta a una Isobel O’Dea, del Convento delle Orsoline di Thurles, Graham Greene afferma che la pioggia è come un sipario dietro cui può accadere quasi qualunque cosa. Ed è vero. Ma se non ci hai mai vissuto dentro, se non sa ...more
Oct 04, 2014 Eleanor rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, excellent, 2014
This is not a book to read in one gulp, this is one to read slowly and savour - the writing was exquisite, this is being added to my (very short) read once every two years list.

My first reaction was that this is a love story to literature, reference is made constantly to characters we have loved in the books of our childhood and later. During my next read I plan to keep a list of books I need to reread!

Terri Jacobson
Ruth Swain is a young Irish woman of uncertain health, and she is looking back at her life searching for understanding, especially of her father and her brother. Her story unfolds in a slow and rambling manner, and her insights and wry humor make the story delightful. The Irish countryside plays a crucial role in this book, it's always present and noted, often in beautiful language; it's almost another character in the story.

As the book opens, Ruth describes her quest for her father:

"The longer
Jun 16, 2014 Julie rated it it was amazing
Wow! Typically, I'm a skimmer...I have a terrible tendency to skim my way through books. This book, though, curbed my skimming, initially because I struggled to follow the meandering narrative as I was skimming, but then because the language is so gorgeous that I didn't want to miss any of it. What a beautiful paean to reading, and writing, and Story...that gives life to and ultimately saves us all. The relationship between the young narrator and her father reminded me so much of both Peace Like ...more
C'è da qualche anno la moda dei libri alla "Forrest Gump", per capirci: un personaggio "insolito" che in qualche modo vive un'esistenza straordinaria che interseca tantissimi eventi cruciali per la storia mondiale. Questo libro fa un percorso simile con i libri, in un certo senso.

Ruth è una ragazza irlandese con dei gravi problemi di salute che la costringono a letto nella sua stanza in soffitta a Faha, un paesino come tanti sulle rive dello Shannon. Indebolita dalla malattia, impiega il suo tem
Sam Still Reading
Aug 23, 2014 Sam Still Reading rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people looking for a beautifully told story
Recommended to Sam Still Reading by: on the Man Booker Prize 2014 long list
As I attempt to read my way through the Man Booker long list for 2014, I keep thinking two things: wow, these books really are well written and how do they affect me? I think History of the Rain is the best of what I’ve read so far (admittedly, not much – three and a bit of the thirteen, with no chance of finishing before the short list announcement). Niall Williams’ story hit me squarely in both places – I was flabbergasted at how well the plot weaved together, keeping me enthralled as I was pi ...more
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  • Orfeo
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Niall Williams studied English and French Literature at University College Dublin and graduated with a MA in Modern American Literature. He moved to New York in 1980 where he married Christine Breen. His first job in New York was opening boxes of books in Fox and Sutherland's Bookshop in Mount Kisco. He later worked as a copywriter for Avon Books in New York City before leaving America with Chris ...more
More about Niall Williams...

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“We are our stories. We tell them to stay alive or keep alive those who only live now in the telling.” 16 likes
“Some people make you feel better about living. Some people you meet and you feel this little lift in your heart, this 'Ah', because there's something in them that's brighter or lighter, something beautiful or better than you, and here's the magic: instead of feeling worse, instead of feeling 'why am I so ordinary?', you feel just the opposite, you feel glad. In a weird way you feel better, because before this you hadn't realised or you'd forgotten human beings could shine so.” 12 likes
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