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History of the Rain

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  5,025 ratings  ·  855 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 s…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)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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Elyse  Walters
Apr 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"As It Is in Heaven", was so enjoyable, I wanted to return to another Niall Williams novel - sooner - rather than later.
"History of the Rain", is extraordinary-phenomenal-brilliant!!! WOW!! - just WOW!!!

A young girl name Ruth Swain, an Irish girl, lies in bed sick....( we never know what she has), but is surrounded by books - around 3,000 books - which she inherited by her father. Throughout the story, books are dropped like rain. I was marking books I haven't read and looking up books to famil
“I will know somehow we can come through, and our story is of enduring and aspiring and that it is enough to keep hoping and to keep telling stories, for each other and about each other…”

Ruth Swain has taught me a lesson here and for that I am forever indebted to her. I have a tendency to be harder on myself than I am on anyone else. The shadow that has fallen over the country and the world in recent times has caused me to examine myself and my goals more sharply than ever before. Furthermore, n
“We tell stories. We tell stories to pass the time, to leave the world for a while, or go more deeply into it. We tell stories to heal the pain of living.”

In prose that sings the songs of falling rain, of ancestors, of family hovering in that place “in between” this life and the next, of the beauty of the land that is Ireland, of the salmon that swim the Shannon, and of poetry, surrounded by her father’s thousands of books inside, the beauty of words on every page.

”We are our stories. We tell
Angela M
Apr 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-favorites
I was in this small town Faha, in Ireland, in this attic room filled with so many books, in the mind and heart of Ruth Swain, an unforgettable character who made me laugh, cry, think and want to read all of those classics I never read. Nineteen and bedridden in her attic room, with an illness that is never fully divulged, Ruth Swain reads and writes and tells us stories, her story and the story of her family. In an utterly stunning way, we the readers are addressed by Ruth and we become part of ...more
Hide and seek - and salve

This is a novel for those who love to lose themselves and find others between pages whose scent whispers as much as the words. Who want to understand those they’ve loved and lost - through their stories and the ones they tell about them. Who want the company of a bibliophile with a poetic turn of phrase and dash of sharp wit.

We are our stories. We tell them to stay alive or keep alive those who only live now in the telling.
This is akin to the recurring theme of word
Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star-books
‘We tell stories. We tell stories to pass the time, to leave the world for a while, or go more deeply into it. We tell stories to heal the pain of living.’ – Niall Williams, History of The Rain

History of The Rain is an elegiac story set in Faha, rural Ireland, where it rains and rains and rains. Not surprisingly, the characters are rained upon and their fate swallowed up by the perpetual deluge. The story is told by nineteen-year-old Ruth Swain, who is bed-bound on account of a life-threatening
Julie Christine
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
Oct 27, 2014 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 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
A rambling, eccentric contemporary fiction novel that made my head spin for all the wrong reasons. A long list Booker Prize nominee, a guide book to Ireland and a list of “ you need to read books thrown in for good measure.

I actually purchased a hard copy and an audible edition of this one as I had such high hopes for it.
This was a case of Irish information overload with this story and the drowning of the shamrock comes to mind. I started out listening to this novel and the narration sounded
May 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This to me is a 5-star book. I think I knew it about 100 pages into the 358-page novel. The writing was extremely clever…in the acknowledgments Niall Williams said it took 5 years to write and at one point thought of abandoning it. Good God! Thank God he did not do that, but persisted on. I read his last work, This is Happiness, about 3 months ago and gave that 5 stars (my first introduction to Niall Williams) and I marveled at his writing style and was writing down passages in the book that wer ...more
Jun 19, 2015 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
Aug 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"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 B
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
Betsy Robinson
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
From her sickbed under a water-pelted skylight in the attic of a tilted house crammed with newspapers and books, in the unmarked parish of Faha, “down in a hole beside the river” in County Clare, Ireland, where it never stops raining, nineteen-year-old Ruth Swain says she is writing a “river.” I would characterize the output as a torrent: a literary reference-packed history of her family. Reading it is like being awash in flood rapids. Sentences cascade, sweeping and twirling you along so fast y ...more
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 diff
Oh my god, this book makes me so angry because if you just cut out the repetitive, far too long, cloying middle 80 pages or so where he shows his hand over and over so insistently that I can't help but look at it, it's a gorgeous, gorgeous talented thing full of pain and life and love and erudition and things put just so. I'm really pissed off that this author over indulged and threw me out of the narrative by telling me how clever he was again and again and getting maudlin about how Irish peopl ...more
Aug 23, 2014 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
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
Beautiful writing but just not for me. I struggled with it.
Sharon Metcalf
Jun 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
4.5 Stars
Who amongst us here on Goodreads doesn’t have a soft spot for books about books? I know I do, and I love it when authors sneak literary references into their own works. If you can relate to this I'm sure you'll get a lot of enjoyment from History of the Rain by Niall Williams. This novel was jam packed with literary references and I thoroughly enjoyed the way Ruthie, his narrator, described people using characters from other books as her terms of reference. In some ways Williams relied
Aug 06, 2014 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
Ravi Gangwani
These words are from writer 'Niall Williams' of the book 'History of the Rain'. Almost two years ago.
Dear Ravi,

Greetings from a deep dark and starry night in County Clare. Thank you for your email about my novel 'History of the Rain.' It is a wonderful thing that a book written here in the wind and rain of the Atlantic coast of Ireland can reach a reader in India. I am greatly touched by your taking the time to let me know that you enjoyed the novel.

Best wishes from Ireland


Yes without
Jan 07, 2014 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.
Paul Secor
Niall Williams writes like an angel - if angels were writers - and he has created a narrator, Ruth Swain, who narrates like an angel - if angels were narrators.
History of the Rain is an ode to the imagination, and to storytelling, and to books, and to reading, and to Ireland, and to what it means to live. That's a lot of to's, but they're all in there.
Aug 04, 2014 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
Aug 06, 2014 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
Tom Lee
Aug 07, 2014 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
Robert Blumenthal
Dec 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I sometimes go back and forth while reading a book, changing my star ratings as I proceed. This stellar novel was easy--it was a 5-star journey all the way. If I was forced to use only one word to describe this novel, it would definitely be "Irish." It is so Irish that I could hear fiddle music and Irish brogue, taste the whiskey, and feel the warmth and charm of the characters as I read. It is narrated by a wonderful narrator, a sickly Irish woman in her 20s. It is mostly about the life of her ...more
Jul 23, 2014 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.
Deborah Meyler
May 21, 2014 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
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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

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