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Posted February 20, 2010
Long-Listed for the Booker? Must have been a long, long list this time
A remarkably disappointing book, The Gift of Rain takes a dramatic historical event--the invasion of Malaysia by the Japanese--and squeezes it flat. The protagonist, like his creator, is a martial arts expert, so everything is an excuse for a fight. It becomes unintentionally comical. Everyone in the family dies, except for the narrator, but there is no sense of tragedy because it's all so expected. There's no real sense of hardship. The audience is supposed to sympathize with the protagonist's conflict since he chooses to "help" the Japanese so he can save his family, but he doesn't save them, and despite the one or two scenes where we see him help the local population, he really is a "running dog." The author tells us this bi-racial character, who is lost between worlds, achieves closure at the end, but mostly the novelist runs out of pages. I have no idea why I bothered finishing this. I think I was giving it a chance until the end since the subject has such potential and because of the Booker Committee's nod, but it is a real waste of time, not to mention the money. The author should stick to his martial arts and forget trying to break into the literary ones. Good prose, vivid characters and a compelling plot are not something you can use the supposed mental discipline of martial arts to achieve.
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