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The Small Rain

(Katherine Forrester Vigneras)

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  3,038 ratings  ·  223 reviews
Madeleine L'Engle's classic young adult books include A Wrinkle in Time, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Certain Women. The Small Rain, an adult novel, focuses on Katherine Forrester, the daughter of distinguished musical artists, whose career as a concert pianist evolves through loves and losses. Katherine is a child growing up in a refined, yet bohemian, artistic ambience-
Paperback, 384 pages
Published July 1st 1985 by Farrar Straus Giroux (first published 1945)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  3,038 ratings  ·  223 reviews

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Jun 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It's been a long time since I read this (18 years--I read it during the first year of my marriage), but I still remember that this book wrecked me. That might not sound like a recommendation, but it is: I love it when writing is that powerful.

That year (1995) was my Madeline L'Engle year. I read books of hers I hadn't read and re-read what I had read before, and it was all grand. Madeline L'Engle feeding frenzies are good for the soul.
Sep 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I never realized as a kid that L'Engle just can't write believable dialogue. She really had a tin ear. And it really doesn't matter.

It's interesting to me how, as I work my way through the L'Engle on my shelves, I keep complaining about it and following the complaints with "but it really doesn't matter". It's true, though. The bones of the writing are so good that the flesh ... wait, it's L'Engle, so: the soul of the writing is so good that the flesh is inconsequential. Her examination of matte
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First, I'm really annoyed with whichever Goodreads librarian classified these books by Katherine's MARRIED name, giving away the fact that (view spoiler) So, thanks, Goodreads, for the major spoiler. In a book like this, whom a person marries is extremely important. It would've been nice if I actually thought (view spoiler) ...more
Dec 19, 2012 rated it did not like it
Rather than hide the whole review, I'll just say now that there are massive spoilers in here. You have been warned.

I've been slowly filling in my collection of "books I loved as a young adult". Reading The Small Rain was partly a familiar experience and partly an entirely new one - this is because as a young adult, I only had access to an expurgated and edited version of the book called Prelude. L'Engle was the one who edited it, and mostly her editing consists of taking out the last half of the
Mar 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: female artists coming of age.
Shelves: books-from-1945
This is Madeleine L'Engle's first novel and what a beautiful book it is. (I missed it when I was reading books from 1945.) The story opens when Katherine is ten years old. Her mother, a famous concert pianist, is somewhere unknown to Katherine, recovering from a nearly fatal accident. Manya, an actress in the New York City theater, is caring for Katherine, who has a bit part in Manya's play.

Katherine does not want to be an actress. Her dream is to be a pianist, like her mother. She also wants he
(I read and reviewed this and A Severed Wasp together originally, so I'm posting comments on both here rather than trying to separate them out.)

L'Engle's books quite often have to do with art, but the two Katherine Vigneras books are particularly focused: Katherine is a pianist, from a family and background of musicians, composers, and actors. The two books are very good on the artistic life, from its beginnings in The Small Rain, which covers Katherine's childhood and adolescence, to its later
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The story of a young woman raised by artistic types who undergoes various trials in her early life (death of loved ones, horrible boarding school, lack of peers, etc) and must stay strong and persevere in her music. I could see why I loved L'Engle so much when I myself was young--the amazing idea that one would just start having deep, passionate, meaningful conversations about life with people one had just met--and yet as an adult now, it seems slightly overwrought. As one of the characters comm ...more
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Katherine is a child who seems to carry the weight of the world upon her artistic shoulders... a deep serious, almost brooding type of personality. She is the same as an adult.
Good writing and a solid story can't be ignored, I suppose.
But I think this story is one I should've read at an earlier stage of my reading journey. It just didn't go down as well as I thought it would.
My reading habits and tastes have changed, quite drastically -and I'm more critical than ever.
I don't know if this is a g
Dec 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I have read so many books in my life. I suppose, objectively speaking, this was far from the best. It is certainly, as she notes in her forward, "very much a first book". The plot is, as other reviewers have noted, clumsy, and the dialogue, regardless of who is speaking, invariably channels L'Engle philosophizing and little else.

That said, it is, on a personal level, one of the most important things I have ever touched, and my feelings for it are so deep that I am not sure how to write a candidl
Austen to Zafón
Jun 14, 2009 rated it liked it
This was the first book I'd read of L'Engle's adult fiction. I read her fantasy books as a kid and really liked them and I knew a bit about her own life, but somehow I never managed to get around to reading her adult books until a couple years ago. This is her first published book and it shows in that it's a bit overwritten, but that said, I still really liked it. It's a coming-of-age story, but it's L'Engle, so you know it's not going to be schmaltzy. Tortured is more like it. The main characte ...more
Lia Marcoux
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a book full of gross impositions. A mother expecting her ten-year-old to manage her alcoholism; a stepmom encouraging her tween stepdaughter's shipboard romance with an aging married Lothario who has a stone-cold Nazi villain scar; a predatory teacher kissing his student; getting engaged to a guy because when you were a child and he was already a grown-up you had a pash on him, and, sure, that's not yucky; and everybody but everybody kissing the main character without permission. But it' ...more
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
I knew reading this book was going to be a weird experience but I was unprepared for how beautiful it was going to be. L'Engle's writing is often lovely but sometimes lovely just for the sake of being lovely which I always claim to dislike and then feel drawn to anyway. I wasn't particularly fond of the characters but I liked the tone of this book and the cyclical plot a lot. It left me feeling melancholy and I love when books affect my mood like that. ...more
May 11, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish, 2011
Did not like it at all. I give a book five chapters before deciding if it's worth my time and I just couldn't get interested in it at all. The dialogue was awful and I couldn't care what happened to the characters. Many loved this book perhaps it got better after chapter 5 but I didn't even want to wade through it. ...more
Mar 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Known especially for her children's books, this is the first novel, an adult novel, by renowned author L'Engle (A Wrinkle in Time) begun while she was still in college. In L'Engle's personal life, she spent a lot of time in New York, in the art and theatre scene. This influence is very present in this semi-autobiographical story of a young talented women coming into her own among many other talents in the 1930s.

Katherine Forrester is born to a composer and a concert pianist. Her father is lost i
Jul 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
When I picked this up, I didn't know that this was L'Engle's first novel. Which is fitting, because even though I first read one of her books when I was 11 or 12, I didn't know she wrote books for adults until just a few years ago.

Published in 1945, L'Engle tells the story of a young woman whose life mirrors her own in important ways. Katherine, our heroine, acts on the New York stage, attends a Swiss boarding school and wants to dedicate her life to art, all as L'Engle did, although Katherine i
Jill Geyer
Oct 29, 2019 rated it liked it
I picked up The Small Rain because I wanted to read something by Madeline L'Engle besides A Wrinkle in Time. I later found out she wrote the book right after college which is kind of cool.

The Small Rain is Katherine Forrester's coming of age story. I think my favorite thing about coming of age stories is that they show how vulnerable we are to our surroundings. In most people's young adult years they become acquainted with pain. These moments of pain change us and shape us. Katherine's Aunt Man
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A delightful coming-of-age tale, splendidly written. THE SMALL RAIN kept me up too late several nights as I eagerly read on to find out what would happen to Katherine, the introverted pianist living among glamorous famous people. Heartbreak and happiness, determination and ambition, all are expertly rendered. There is, admittedly, a fair bit of white privilege, homophobia, and mooning over one man or another—one wishes for Katherine to fully realize herself and focus on her music, but that would ...more
Meredith McCaskey
Jul 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
Even Madeleine L’Engle could write a not-very-good kind of self-indulgent first novel. And what’s with every man she ever meets from the time she’s 14 wanting to hit on Katherine? Ew...
May 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: womens-lit
I was surprised at how much this book resonated with me. It was first published in 1945 (is L'Engle's first novel, I believe), and has been out of print since 1985. I think L'Engle's voice is so earnest, the reader cannot help but be sympathetic. For me, L'Engle is a kindred spirit, and this work seems at times autobiographical (she was a student in a boarding school in Switzerland, her mother was a pianist, she was clumsy and misunderstood by teachers as a child).

I was also surprised how the b
Aug 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2010, fiction
Katherine is a serious, deep-thinking child who is determined to be a pianist like her mother. As the book opens, she's ten years old, appearing in a play with her famous aunt, with whom she lives; she has not seen her mother in three years. The novel spans the next eight or nine years of Katherine's life, including bereavement, boarding school, and her first romantic affairs.

Madeline L'Engle states in the introduction that it's not autobiographical, but some of Katherine's situations are hers;
Oct 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
this ranks as one of my favorite books of all time and definitely something i'd recommend to any females out there. basically it's a coming of age book, sans your typical judy bloom-like horror stories. katherine, the main character, is being raised by her composer-father who is neglectful if not anything else, and her step-mother-actress. the book chronicles the different phases she goes through as she reaches her adulthood. i thought it was very well written (as tends to be my opinion about mo ...more
Feb 09, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: subway-books
I read this because I really love the book, A Severed Wasp. This book is the prequel (or rather, A Severed Wasp is the conclusion) to the story of Katherine.

Madeleine L'Engle writes in the forward to The Small Rain, after the book was put back into publication in 1984 (first published in 1945), that it is very much a first novel. That I can see. A Severed Wasp was written decades later and the writer has matured and grown along with the characters. I probably won't re-read this because the writ
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-books
I adore this novel. I first read it as a young adult and fell in love with the beautiful writing and the way it talks about an artist's life. Upon re-reading it, I realized just how downright strange parts of it are (ship's doctor hitting on 14-year-old Katherine, the adults in her life encouraging it, allowing Katherine to smoke and drink as a young teen, the distressing (to a present-day reader) gay bar scene.
This was “very much a first novel,” as L'engle says in the forward. I'm wondering h
Aug 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: lit
I love L'Engle's work as a rule, but Katherine in this book was carried from place to place, largely babied and bullied by others until she actually notes that she feels comfortable with bullying by her lover. The number of times men press themselves on her and the times they physically threaten her--and it makes no real impression on her. So many events don't seem to develop her character, for she's horribly unintrospective and phlegmatic. The things she wants she can scarcely explain to hersel ...more
Oct 05, 2015 rated it did not like it
I used to read this author a lot as a kid, so when I saw this at the library I was intrigued. Musicians, New York City, coming of age...sure!
Oh, no. Weepy women, domineering men, terrible dialogue. It's like Attack of the Clones without any Jedi and a much less pressing conflict.

Side note: why does the main character seem to relish being babied? And why do the men like it? Gurl! Stand up for yourself.
DNF 26%

I wanted to like this, but the tone just didn't click with me. I was expecting maybe something a bit more lighthearted given that the story is about a girl growing into a young woman, but the tone was more serious and somber and not really what I was looking for. It's difficult to describe how it made me feel, but it wasn't like most books of this type, where the tone is upbeat and even though bad things will happen everything will be okay. This felt like bad things will happen and it mig
Jan 27, 2018 rated it did not like it
Hey there L’Engle, your homophobia is showing. Didn’t help either that I read this after your other very homophobic work, A House Like a Lotus.
May 07, 2020 rated it liked it
I want to love this book. It certainly has luminous passages about a young person's desire to be an artist and her attempt to comprehend the requirements of great artistry.

That said, I found Katherine to be a boring and annoyingly angsty character. In different circumstances, I could even accept those qualities as understandable. She does has to live at the whim and expectations of the childish adults in her life, and naturally, as a reflective person, she turns inward and becomes artistically s
James Hogan
Mar 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Picked up this book a week ago at a Half Price Books in Dallas on a whim. Browsing the literature stacks and of course my eye will catch on a L'Engle title. But somehow I never have heard of this one? Doing a little more research, apparently this is the first novel she ever published!? So yes, of course I bought it. It is a...beautiful book. Raw and emotional, as befits a first book. Published in 1945, this book seems to belong to a bygone age, yet the characters in this book leap from the page, ...more
Christy Baker
Aug 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is the first book ever written by Madeleine L'Engle and while it is certainly has all of the descriptive qualities that make her later books so enjoyable, it lacks the depth and magic and, well, the maturity of her later works. I had wanted to read it as I've read much of L'Engle's other books and she has always been a favorite author. Honestly, I almost put it down to abandon after about 40 pages, but it did eventually engage me even as some of the middle sections felt a bit tiresome.

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Madeleine L'Engle was an American writer best known for her young adult fiction, particularly the Newbery Medal-winning A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Many Waters. Her works reflect her strong interest in modern science: tesseracts, for example, are featured prominently in A Wrinkle in Time, mitochondrial DNA in A Wind in the Door, organ regener ...more

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Katherine Forrester Vigneras (2 books)
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