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The Gift of Rain

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  10,612 ratings  ·  1,468 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
Paperback, 447 pages
Published by Myrmidon (first published 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)
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Average rating 4.23  · 
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 ·  10,612 ratings  ·  1,468 reviews

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Elyse (semi hiatus) Walters
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Right from the start, I knew I picked the right book to read. After spending about an hour going through books I own...I settled in with "The Gift of Rain".
There is nothing better than when the entire first chapter has you fully engaged, captivated, emotionally invested with the characters -- and loving the dialogue.
Our trust in the author has been established!

Phillip Hutton was born into a wealthy English family in Malaya. His mother was Chinese and his father English. Much of Malaya--(after
"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
Oct 08, 2012 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
May 25, 2011 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
Jun 12, 2014 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
Nov 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those who hear the rain sing
Recommended to Dolors by: Samadrita & Praj
Shelves: dost, read-in-2014, asian
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 ...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
Connie G
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Philip Hutton is remembering the tumultuous years in Malaysia around the time of World War II when he was a young man with divided loyalties. As a sixteen-year-old in 1939, he was the son of a prosperous English father and a deceased Chinese mother who felt like he did not fit into either community. He met Hatato Endo, a Japanese diplomat who was renting an island from Philip's father. Endo taught Philip the martial arts skills and mental discipline of aikido, as well as the Japanese language ...more
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Apr 22, 2013 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.
Jun 09, 2014 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
Jun 19, 2008 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
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book started off so well but it soon became bogged down with repetitious scenes. After reading half the book I finally laid it to rest.
Jan 13, 2015 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
Nov 26, 2014 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

I tried about 75 pages of this over the last week and it is not doing anything for me for the following reasons:

1. This is a slow-build of a novel at a time when I am not in the mood for a slow-paced, potentially over-written story.

2. Although the story is set in Penang and I have an interest in the place, it seems to be rather similar to Tan Twan Eng's second book The Garden of Evening Mists, which also deals with a WWII setting.

3. I have a feeling that I can guess where this story is
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
Aug 17, 2008 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
T.D. Whittle
Dec 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews, tan-twan-eng
Here, at the eleventh hour, I am happy to declare The Gift of Rain my favourite read of 2017. (I'm excluding War and Peace because it seems unfair not to. I consider Tolstoy to occupy his own realm entirely.) I was utterly captivated by this book and so tense during the final third that my shoulders and back began to ache. I finished it at three o'clock this morning, and my sweet husband massaged the knots out of my body so that I could sleep. (I am not very practised at zazen, as you may have ...more
May 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: asia
I wish I could give this book more than five stars. It is the kind of book that reaches into your soul and leaves a scar there that will never disappear. A poignant and moving saga of choices, fates, destinies, struggles and regrets. Which of us has cannot look back and see moments that have separated us forever from others we love, times that our decisions cannot be understood and are too complicated to explain, choices that seem thrust upon us as if fate had all control and we had none.

Apr 24, 2009 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
Alice Poon
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it

This was a very compelling read. The story is set in Penang, Malaysia, just before, during and shortly after the Japanese invasion and occupation in World War II. It follows the soulful trajectory of a half-Chinese, half-British local young lad, who learns the hard lessons of duty, love and loyalty in the midst of war-time brutalities, when it is most difficult to draw the line between right and wrong.

The book is divided into Part One and Part Two. Part One tells how Philip Hutton, a
The year is 1939. Sixteen year old Philip Hutton is the youngest child of Noel Hutton, one of the wealthiest and most respected businessmen in Penang, Malaya. Noel was a widower with three Caucasian children when he met and married Philip’s Chinese born mother. She had died unexpectedly when Philip was very young.

Being a mixed race child, Philip had always felt alienated from his family and his schoolmates. When Noel planned a trip back to his native England, Philip chose not to go along with
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
Aug 12, 2014 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 ...more
Oct 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really, really enjoyed this story! It was beautifully written. I cannot say it better than Lilisa did in her review though.

Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
What to say!!!

Many post of the lyrical and exquisite balance of language, and the intense emotion of connections between Philip and his sensei. And the world of their island in Malaysia during this pre-war and WWII years. And the aftermath.

No plot tell here or synopsis. There's much action, it's not all poetic scenery and house parties. Book 1 is so well done that you felt that you were another set of eyes to Endo-san's island, and the lessons given there. But yet, I never lost that sense-
I adored Tan Twan Eng’s second novel, “The Garden of the Evening Mists”. The language was so beautiful it made me ache at times. It is a huge story, intricately plotted, deeply emotional and one of the best books that I have ever read.

“The Gift of Rain” was nominated for a Booker Prize, and I expected to be swept along by it as I had been by Eng’s second novel. It does share a similar dream-like atmosphere, and at its historical centre are the atrocities committed by the Japanese during World
May 23, 2008 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 ...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 -
Nov 20, 2008 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 ...more
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Tan Twan Eng was born in Penang and 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; in 2016, he was an International Writer-in-Residence at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Tan's first novel, The Gift of Rain (2007), was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and has ...more
“To have memories, happy or sorrowful, is a blessing, for it shows we have lived our lives without reservation.” 36 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.” 22 likes
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