MariannaInAfrica's Reviews > The Gift of Rain

The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng
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it was amazing
bookshelves: ebooks-in-english

What an amazing book, one of the most beautifully written stories I have ever read. Set on the island of Penang in Malaysia just before the outbreak of World War II, it's the story of Philip Hutton, a son of a successful and respected English businessman and a Chinese woman. As a teenager he meets Hayato Endo, a Japanese master of aikido, who becomes his sensei (teacher) and closest friend. But this relationship will soon bear serious consequences and it will shape Philip's life in a way he never imagined.

Philip is a young boy, lonely and confused about his identity as half-European, half-Asian. Lessons with Endo-san give him strength, not just physical but also spiritual. Only later does he realise that there was more to it than that. When war reaches Malaya, Philip makes a decision that will shape his fate and that of his family and friends. We meet him as an elderly man who recounts the story of his life to a visitor, a Japanese lady called Michiko. Endo-san is the person that binds them, and her visit prompts Philip to finally face his past.

The novel explores a number of themes, like growing up, searching for one's identity, the importance of family. It also poses many questions in the spirit of Eastern philosophy. Do we really decide about everything in our lives or is it all already written down for us, and no matter what we do, we won't be able to escape fate? Do we keep reliving our lives and meeting the same people over and over again, until we finally resolve all conflicts and pay for the mistakes we have been making? What is the meaning of loyalty and trust? Does loving someone mean being faithful to them at all cost? It all sounds very deep, and it is, but somehow Tan Twan Eng manages to write about all those complex topics in a very smooth and engaging way. The language is full of poetry, yet very clear and not pretentious. The historical background is well-researched, and the characters believable and multi-dimensional. I remained thoroughly interested in the story, and savoured it and the way it was written. I also experienced a wide range of emotions, from sadness and anger to sympathy and helplessness. There is a strong sensation of nostalgia throughout the book, and the vivid images evoked by the author will remain with me for a long time. It's not a happy story but somehow, after finishing it, I felt calm and content. I guess that's a sign of an extraordinary novel.
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Reading Progress

August 16, 2016 – Started Reading
August 16, 2016 – Shelved
August 16, 2016 – Shelved as: ebooks-in-english
August 17, 2016 –
18.0%
August 20, 2016 –
68.0%
August 21, 2016 – Finished Reading

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