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Bangkok Wakes to Rain

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  235 ratings  ·  65 reviews
"Recreates the experience of living in Thailand's aqueous climate so viscerally that you can feel the water rising around your ankles."--Ron Charles, Washington Post

"Important, ambitious, and accomplished." --Mohsin Hamid, New York Times bestselling author of Exit West

A missionary doctor pines for his native New England even as he succumbs to the vibrant chaos of nine
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published February 19th 2019 by Riverhead Books
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Darunee Wilson I looked, too, but the only connection seemed to be that Nee taught Mai to swim, and that Nee manages the building Mai lives in. Near the end Mai…moreI looked, too, but the only connection seemed to be that Nee taught Mai to swim, and that Nee manages the building Mai lives in. Near the end Mai warns Nee about the snake. But I definitely felt I was missing something.(less)
Darunee Wilson I thought it was Mai, because she talked about her parents being in the building. And then later I wondered if it was after her "transformation,"…moreI thought it was Mai, because she talked about her parents being in the building. And then later I wondered if it was after her "transformation," because she takes Pig to see the spot where the boy lay.(less)

Community Reviews

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3.55  · 
Rating details
 ·  235 ratings  ·  65 reviews

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Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
It's likely that I'm a little biased.
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-read, thailand
Sudbanthad's debut novel is a lyrical love letter to a city and its inhabitants - this book is truly enchanting and full of atmosphere, introducing various characters in order to tell the story of a vivid, loud, magical, sprawling protagonist: Bangkok. The narrative strands, set in the past, present and future, are like streets on a 3D map of the city, that evoke the spirit at the heart of the place - how can a text that is neither plot nor character driven be so captivating? Among the people we ...more
Ron Charles
"Bangkok Wakes to Rain” should come with a mop. This teeming debut novel by Pitchaya Sudbanthad re-creates the experience of living in Thailand’s aqueous climate so viscerally that you can feel the water rising around your ankles.

But Sudbanthad’s skills are more than just meteorological. A native of Thailand now living in New York, he captures the nation’s lush history in all its turbulence and resilience. Even the novel’s complex structure reflects Bangkok’s culture. The chapters flow back and
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5, rounded up.

Bangkok Wakes to Rain is an ambitious, beautifully written and intricately plotted debut novel that had me engrossed from beginning to end. I am not always a fan of a novel of linked stories - which this is - but I was captivated by Sudbanthad's depiction of Bangkok. Sudbanthad's skill at using a non-linear narrative (often tricky) to trace the city's history and possible future was impressive. The 'stories' of various characters, lives that gradually connect and merge as the nov
Mar 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5, rounded down.

For some reason, I just could never get any momentum up while reading this book; partially that was due to the disjointed nature of the narrative (it's more or less a series of VERY loosely connected short stories, rather than a true novel), and while I enjoyed what I read, it just never grabbed me enough to read more than a few pages at a time. The prose is often very good, and it certainly evokes the place extremely well, but I had a hard time keeping the various strands and
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5* rounded up.

"The city radiated from the river outward, and so did her madness"

Beautifully written and evocative from the title to the last sentence. This novel drifts and revisits the past, present and imagined future of Bangkok with seemingly unrelated characters and stories gradually weaving together. While some of the futuristic scenes were not as strong as the rest of the book, other’s particularly regarding the political history and student massacre of 1976 had me researching to find ou
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sudbanthad's debut novel weaves storylines across space and time, linking back to the Thai capital and its cyclical rains and floods. A 19th-century missionary doctor treating cholera, an aging musician hired to play music for ghosts, two sisters in Thailand and Japan, a glimpse into the future of Bangkok underwater with people living in 'barge cities'. Sweeping scope, beautiful writing.

It's an easy comparison to David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, but there were some other intriguing elements here th
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A novel of BANGKOK across the centuries

Bangkok Wakes To Rain is an extraordinary debut novel – ambitious and wide ranging in both its content and its style.

People and families are interwoven across centuries – from the end of the 19th to an imagined future a few decades hence. The book ranges from an historical novel through to more of a Sci-Fi fantasy. Many stories exist and overlap, but there are two constants. The first is an ever evolving building. Built in colonial times, it is inhabited at
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Bangkok Wakes to Rain is a beautifully written book. The author cherishes the city and those who come to it. His linked stories are more like a kaleidoscope of tales that build upon the city’s past, present and future life. The people thrive, survive and change as Bangkok enfolds them within its rhythms. Subandthad, more than any other author I have recently read, has a gift for incorporating sound within each vignette. Sometimes it is jazz, traditional music, rushing water, flocks of birds, a c ...more
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is very complicated--lots of timelines and characters who connect in ways that are easy to see and sometimes obscured. There's a large dash of cli-fi and sci-fi in here as well. Honestly: I can't get into what this book is about, because there are SO many different plot lines, but the overarching theme is about the passage of time and how the permanency of place is affected by time. If you like David Mitchell, give this book a shot. Honestly, I'm planning to re-read this in the next fe ...more
Joshua Buhs
A lush, beautiful story that jumps to and fro in time, telling the story of Bangkok, a core of citizens, who live there and die there, when the city is first colonized to the time when its is almost overwhelmed by rising waters. Almost, for even then, the people persist. At its center is a house, a place to which the people come and go. Sudbanthad has a deft hand at creating characters and conjuring up new worlds in only a few sentences. I admit I didn't alway give the story the attention it des ...more
Feb 11, 2019 rated it liked it
First of all, this is a gorgeous title and pretty much the reason why I picked it up.
And while I admired the evocative and assured language, I kept getting lost between the narrative snapshots. According to the blurb, a house in Bankok is what connects all of the episodes, but this is a rather tenuous link. I found it easier, in most cases, to follow the links between the characters, because the stories aren't always set in Bangkok.
Sudbhanthat aims to cover a lot of ground and time, touching on
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks
The second half of the book, visualizing a drowned Bangkok, is excellent. The qualms I have are about the audiobook, where the narrator mispronounces common Thai words and the accents of the Thai characters is irritating. When I re-read this, I'll go to the paper book not the audio version.
James Beggarly
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
A remarkable performance of showing a city now, deep into its past and far into the future, with a very large cast of intersecting characters. A really smart novel from a first time writer.
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Might actually round up to a 4.5, will assess as I think about the book for the next few days... because I definitely WILL be thinking about it. Sudbanthad pulls off an incredible feat with this novel, making his main character a city -- not the specific streets and buildings, not like in a noir novel or even in something like Mieville's PERDIDO STREET STATION, but the spirit of a metropolis. We bounce through time, from over a hundred years ago to possibly a hundred years from now, following so ...more
Apr 09, 2019 rated it liked it
I had a difficult time getting through this book-- when I was reading it I enjoyed the writing and the story, but it was easy to be distracted from going back to it. I found it to be both incredibly interesting and difficult to follow. The book blurb says that, in the book, time collapses, but I began to think of time as fluid. This seems more in keeping with water theme that pervades the story. I wonder, if I tried reading it again, I might enjoy it more. It is imaginative and descriptive. I be ...more
Saturday's Child
Apr 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A perfect holiday read.
Dec 03, 2018 rated it liked it
My review for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Pitchaya Sudbanthad’s monumental and polyphonic debut novel, “Bangkok Wakes to Rain,” is a sweeping epic with the amphibious city of the title at its scintillating center.

The individual stories seem disconnected at first, almost like raindrops, discrete unto themselves. There is the unnamed woman who meanders Bangkok’s streets in the 21st century; Phineas Stevens, the missionary doctor of a century ago who longs
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
Hasn’t the “people who are somehow connected through a place, person, whatever” method of book-writing been declared stale yet? What does non-linear timeline have to add to such poor story telling?
Instead of a loose connection, short and seperate stories would have worked better for me. As it is, i thought it was forced, contrived, and unnatural.

And what was that futuristic section at the end about?! I am sure there is better sci-fi out there to settle for this section.

There were some good ide
Kathleen Gray
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Think of this as a literary kaleidoscope. It's not a straight narrative and the plot line is tenuous but it is filled with fascinating snippets of people and things in Bangkok, a city which also figures in as a character. Everyone (including the birds) are linked through a house = over a period of many years- and how they come together may not be clear for a long time but they do. Beautifully written and evocative of both time and place, it is an impressive debut. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC ...more
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio, overdrive
I liked the writing style, but the book was done in by its structure. The disjointed, loosely linked short stories didn’t form a coherent story. Then Part IV of the book totally lost me. Please don’t suddenly shift to sci fi at the end of a book.
Samantha Chong
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was such a brilliant book. Spanning almost a century between its past and an envisioning of the city's present, Bangkok Wakes to Rain follows a few main characters at different points of their lives in Bangkok, though each chapter is narrated by characters who spend parts of their lives interacting with the main protagonists. Each protagonist's journey is unique and well-rounded, allowing the reader a glimpse into what makes their stories so... human. It's an unflinching look at the many na ...more
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I thought this was an excellent book overall. I appreciated that Krungthep (aka Bangkok) is almost another character in this book. The ending got peculiar and tried to do some new things.

I would definitely read other works by Subdanthad. His writing is beautiful in many parts and I enjoyed his storycraft.

Several favorite quotes:

He has never been one for afternoons. He hates how the day hangs so thick and undecided, as if it's staring him down and expecting an answer.

One privilege Sammy enjoyed
Apr 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Like many other readers, I think this book would have been better served as a series of short stories than trying to tie all the characters together. There were parts of the book that I hurtled through, and others that I struggled to get through. The writing in the earlier part of the book is, to me, much more beautiful; the later, more futuristic sections are somehow dryer and harder to follow. An ambitious work, and one that falls just short.
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
A collection of disparate storylines that are tenuously linked by minor threads. Spoiler alert, I really don't think the house is what brings all the stories together despite the synopsis.

It's quite difficult to follow and difficult to engage with the story or the characters as they randomly pop in and out of existence. There would be one chapter centred on one character who will only get a passing mention many chapters later.

But I did enjoy the writing. My favourite storyline was Nee and Nok.
Carrie Echols
Mar 14, 2019 rated it liked it
I received this book from a Goodreads giveaway. I'm really not comfortable writing a review for this book, not because I didn't like it, but because I didn't really understand it. There's beautiful writing, great descriptions and good characters. Chapters go back and forth between characters and times and this became confusing to me. I really liked some of these characters and I felt involved with them so the book held my interest. I should research the college attack that happened in the 70's, ...more
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: giveaways
I found the first half of this novel very slow and I almost stopped reading. I did like the second half better. I found the book confusing and I had trouble keeping track of the multiple characters, storylines, and timelines. Maybe I was just not in the right frame of mind to read a complex book right now. Thanks for an ARC of Bankok Wakes to Rain.
Mar 17, 2019 rated it liked it
A unique premise-- I'll admit I didn't catch on for some time, thinking I was reading short stories... But when I finally wised up I really enjoyed the cadence and plot.
Emily Yang
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
daily review coming soon
Jessica Jeffers
Feb 27, 2019 rated it liked it
The writing is wonderful, but I struggled to stay interested in the plot.
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“Ambitious and sweeping, yet at once intimately crafted and shot through with fine detail, Bangkok Wakes to Rain is a sumptuous accomplishment.”

“An important, ambitious, and accomplished novel. Sudbanthad deftly sweeps us up in a tale that paints a twin portrait: of a megacity like those so many of us call home and of a world where sanctuary is increasingly hard to come by.”
—Mohsin Hamid,