Julie Christine's Reviews > History of the Rain

History of the Rain by Niall Williams
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it was amazing
bookshelves: contemporary-fiction, ireland-theme-setting, best-of-2014, read-2014

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 him, his history, and his truth, in the vast library he left behind. Her clear, funny, and poignant voice guides us through misty decades of Swain and MacCarroll family lore to illuminate how her father, Virgil, and her mother, Mary, came to farm the worst fourteen acres of land in Ireland.

The reminders of present-day Ireland—references to the Crash, the internet, Marty in the Morning on RTE's Lyric FM—jolted me out of the dreamlike meanderings in a timeless world, casting a surreal glow over this rain-sodden ode to Ireland, literature, and love. But the anachronisms make the story more bewitching; Williams shows us that even in this hyper-connected world, it is possible to escape. And the greatest escape is found in the pages of a book.

This is a book to savor, slowly and delicately. It pokes gentle, meta, self-mocking fun at the conventions of novel structure. If you are a reader who expects tidy packages of chronological storytelling, plot points, and story arcs, give this a try. You might be surprised what beauty can be woven outside the confines of the Fiction 101 blogosphere. And read with a notebook by your side, because you'll want to make note of each volume Ruth references in her vast library—it's a primer on Western literature's greatest works of poetry and prose. Tissues would be good, too. I reckon you won't make it through this with dry eyes.

Tied up in my delight with History of the Rain is my love for Ireland, particularly the west. Williams, as he always does, captures this incomparable spirit, the particular state of longing that I feel when I am in Ireland, or just thinking about being there:

We're a race of elsewhere people. That's what makes us the best saints and the best poets and the best musicians and the world's worst bankers. ...It's in the eyes. The idea of a better home. Some of us have it worse than others. My father had it running in the rivers of him.

Let this river of words take you away. But be forewarned: you won't want to return.
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Reading Progress

April 30, 2014 – Shelved
April 30, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
June 2, 2014 – Started Reading
June 3, 2014 – Shelved as: contemporary-fiction
June 3, 2014 – Shelved as: ireland-theme-setting
June 3, 2014 –
page 75
20.83% "This is one to savor. Gorgeous, gorgeous writing."
June 4, 2014 –
page 182
50.56% "In Ireland, this world and the world we go to after death are not far apart. WB Yeats."
June 5, 2014 – Shelved as: read-2014
June 5, 2014 – Shelved as: best-of-2014
June 5, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-36 of 36 (36 new)

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message 1: by Carol (new) - added it

Carol Irish storytelling? It sounds like my kind of book.


Julie Christine I'm loving it, Carol. Absolutely gorgeous.


message 3: by Carol (new) - added it

Carol Great! I've added it and I've checked out the author.


message 4: by Julie Christine (last edited Jun 04, 2014 06:47AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Julie Christine Carol wrote: "Great! I've added it and I've checked out the author."
Try Fall of Light, too. It's one of the most beautiful books I've read.


message 5: by Carol (new) - added it

Carol Thanks for the recommendation, Julie. I will check into that one.


Julie Christine 500 stars. I'm in puddles. Oh my heavens.


message 7: by Joan (new)

Joan Guess what I found tonight on the new-release shelf of my library?? After reading your glowing comments, I can't wait to dig in!


Julie Christine Joan wrote: "Guess what I found tonight on the new-release shelf of my library?? After reading your glowing comments, I can't wait to dig in!"
So lovely. I need to get my thoughts together for a review.


message 9: by Carol (new) - added it

Carol I can't wait to read your review!


message 10: by Connie (new)

Connie G Lovely review! I have some ancestors that came from County Clare, and I love books about books, so I'll have to look for this novel.


message 11: by Michael (new)

Michael Lovely review--so enticing.


Julie Christine Connie wrote: "Lovely review! I have some ancestors that came from County Clare, and I love books about books, so I'll have to look for this novel." Oh Connie, then you must read it. It's so personal and specific to Co Clare and its people.


Julie Christine Michael wrote: "Lovely review--so enticing." Thank you, Michael. The beauty, hope, and sadness resonated with me.


message 14: by Carol (new) - added it

Carol Beautiful review, Julie! I've added this one to my queue.


Julie Christine Carol wrote: "Beautiful review, Julie! I've added this one to my queue."
Thank you, Carol!


message 16: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Elsewhere people. Love that phrase and your review, Julie.


Julie Christine Cheryl wrote: "Elsewhere people. Love that phrase and your review, Julie."

Thank you, Cheryl!! He's such a poetic writer. I swoon!


message 18: by cheryl (last edited Jun 17, 2014 03:00AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

cheryl County Clare, the Burren, and Dingle are my favorite places in Ireland. After reading your review I am going to read this story starting tonight!


cheryl Something about the author's name was tickling me. I met him. In Ireland. Coming out of his house. I looked for him to sign my copy of O Come Ye Back to Ireland when I was over there in 1994. Loved that story. Pulling it off my shelf to savor again.


Gloria McKeague I'm so excited, I bought this book last week and will start it tonight!


Julie Christine cheryl wrote: "Something about the author's name was tickling me. I met him. In Ireland. Coming out of his house. I looked for him to sign my copy of O Come Ye Back to Ireland when I was over there in 1994. Loved..."
Cheryl, that is such a great story (and I love the photo- thank you!).


Julie Christine cheryl wrote: "County Clare, the Burren, and Dingle are my favorite places in Ireland. After reading your review I am going to read this story starting tonight!" My slices of heaven on earth. I'm writing a story right now that's set in Dingle ...


Julie Christine Gloria wrote: "I'm so excited, I bought this book last week and will start it tonight!" Oh, I so hope you enjoy this, Gloria. Such a lovely read!


message 24: by karan (new)

karan Just ordered this book because of your lovely review. I am so excited


Julie Christine Karan wrote: "Just ordered this book because of your lovely review. I am so excited" Karan, I hope you find this as enchanting as I did. :)


message 26: by Heather (new) - added it

Heather Fineisen Awesomeness!


Julie Christine Heather wrote: "Awesomeness!" Heather, I hope you love this!


Lynette Great review. Thank you!


Julie Christine Lynette wrote: "Great review. Thank you!"

Thank you, Lynette! I see you loved it, too :)


message 30: by Yasmin (new)

Yasmin What a perfect way to describe Niall- 'a composer who elicits music out of words'. That is exactly what he does. I haven't read this yet, but will certainly pick it up


Julie Christine Yasmin wrote: "What a perfect way to describe Niall- 'a composer who elicits music out of words'. That is exactly what he does. I haven't read this yet, but will certainly pick it up"

Oh, I hope you love this, Yasmin. Truly one of my favorite writers.


message 32: by Ani (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ani Julie, your reviews are their own art form. I often find you giving voice to my experiences, such that I am left speechless for it has been said already so aptly, sensitively and lyrically by you as reviewer. I LOVED this book and love how much "Justice" as it were your review does it!


message 33: by Ani (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ani Julie, your reviews are their own art form. I often find you giving voice to my experiences, such that I am left speechless for it has been said already so aptly, sensitively and lyrically by you as reviewer. I LOVED this book and love how much "Justice" as it were your review does it!


Julie Christine Ani wrote: "Julie, your reviews are their own art form. I often find you giving voice to my experiences, such that I am left speechless for it has been said already so aptly, sensitively and lyrically by you a..."
Ani, what an absolutely beautiful comment and compliment. Thank you. Thank you!! This book, all of Williams' writing, touched me to the core. I'm so glad you loved it, too!


Imaan Tamimi A very well written review!


Julie Christine Imaan wrote: "A very well written review!"

Thank you, Imaan!


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