The Gift of Rain

The Gift of Rain

4.2 37
by Tan Twan Eng
     
 

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The recipient of extraordinary acclaim from critics and the bookselling community, Tan Twan Eng's debut novel casts a powerful spell and has garnered comparisons to celebrated wartime storytellers Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene. Set during the tumult of World War II, on the lush Malayan island of Penang, The Gift of Rain tells a riveting and poignant

Overview

The recipient of extraordinary acclaim from critics and the bookselling community, Tan Twan Eng's debut novel casts a powerful spell and has garnered comparisons to celebrated wartime storytellers Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene. Set during the tumult of World War II, on the lush Malayan island of Penang, The Gift of Rain tells a riveting and poignant tale about a young man caught in the tangle of wartime loyalties and deceits.

In 1939, sixteen-year-old Philip Hutton-the half-Chinese, half-English youngest child of the head of one of Penang's great trading families-feels alienated from both the Chinese and British communities. He at last discovers a sense of belonging in his unexpected friendship with Hayato Endo, a Japanese diplomat. Philip proudly shows his new friend around his adored island, and in return Endo teaches him about Japanese language and culture and trains him in the art and discipline of aikido. But such knowledge comes at a terrible price. When the Japanese savagely invade Malaya, Philip realizes that his mentor and sensei-to whom he owes absolute loyalty-is a Japanese spy. Young Philip has been an unwitting traitor, and must now work in secret to save as many lives as possible, even as his own family is brought to its knees.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This remarkable debut saga of intrigue and akido flashes back to a darkly opulent WWII-era Malaya. Phillip Hutton, 72, lives in serene Penang comfort, occasionally training students as an akido master "teacher of teachers." A visit from Michiko Murakami sends him spiraling back into his past, where he grows up the alienated half-British, half-Chinese son of a wealthy Penang trader in the years before WWII. When Hutton's father and three siblings leave him to run the family company one summer, he befriends a mysterious Japanese neighbor named Mr. Endo. Japan is on the opposing side of the coming war, but Endo paradoxically opts to train Hutton in the ways of aikido, in what both men come to see as the fulfillment of a prophecy that has haunted them for several lifetimes. When the Japanese army invades Malaya, chaos reigns, and Phillip makes a secret, very profitable deal. He cannot, however, offset the costs of his friendship with Endo. Eng's characters are as deep and troubled as the time in which the story takes place, and he draws on a rich palette to create a sprawling portrait of a lesser explored corner of the war. Hutton's first-person narration is measured, believable and enthralling. (May)

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Library Journal

This epic first novel involves the life of Philip Arminius Khoo-Hutton-half-British and half-Chinese, who lives on the Malaysian island of Penang prior to World War II. Feeling like an outcast in his aristocratic British family, he befriends an older Japanese diplomat, Endo-san, who teaches him the art of aikido. A sacred bond grows between student and teacher-"next to a parent, a teacher is the most important person in one's life." When war erupts and the Japanese invade Malaya, Philip finds his loyalty divided between his family and Endo-san. In a series of dramatic events, he discovers support from his courageous Chinese past told through his grandfather, a sustaining friendship with a fellow student of aikido name Kon, and a mysterious association with Endo-san that has been playing out for hundreds of years and can only be broken in a ritual of death. Philip's personal drama unfolds against the backdrop of fascinating glimpses into Chinese culture, British imperialism, and the Japanese occupation that eventually claims the lives of everyone around him. Strong characters and page-turning action make this a top pick for historical fiction.
—David A. Berona

Kirkus Reviews
Though this debut novel of divided loyalties in Southeast Asia during World War II has the epic sweep of a TV mini-series, portentous dialogue and belabored themes undermine its otherwise engrossing plot. Narrating the novel, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, is Philip Hutton, whom the reader first encounters as the Malaysian island of Penang is about to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of Japanese occupation. As the surviving member of one of the island's leading families, the half-Chinese, half-English Hutton is surprised to receive a visitor from Japan, Michiko Murakami, an aged woman previously unknown to him. She soon reveals that the two have a strong tie through their mutual association with Hayato Endo, a teacher of martial arts and Zen Buddhism, who had exerted a profound influence on both. Much of the rest of the novel finds Philip relating to Michiko (and the reader) how his relationship with Endo had determined his life's course. The narrative structure is a little clunky (Michiko disappears for hundreds of pages at a time, making the reader wonder whether this setup is really necessary), but Hutton's story is frequently compelling. He had become the pupil of the Japanese master as a teenager, when he was already struggling with questions of identity and allegiance. The only child of his British father's second marriage, to a Chinese woman who died when he was a boy, he felt like a foreigner with his father and stepsiblings. The influence of Endo on Philip further complicates familial relations, particularly after Japan invades Malaya during World War II. Was Philip a collaborator who betrayed his own country? Did he do what he needed to protect hisfamily? Or was he a patriot engaged in subversion against the Japanese who had come to trust him?The author makes it clear that issues of treason and patriotism-and fate and free will-defy easy resolution. Agent: Jane Gregory/Gregory and Company

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781602860742
Publisher:
Weinstein Books
Publication date:
05/05/2009
Pages:
450
Sales rank:
101,813
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

TAN TWAN ENG was born in Penang, but lived in various places in Malaysia as a child. He studied law at the University of London, and later worked as an advocate and solicitor in one of Kuala Lumpur's most reputable law firms. He also has a first-dan ranking in aikido and is a strong proponent for the conservation of heritage buildings. He has spent the last year traveling around South Africa, living in Cape Town, and has recently returned to Penang to work on his second book.

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The Gift of Rain 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
MDTuck More than 1 year ago
A beautifully crafted, sensitive handling of a unique young man coming of age and awareness of his strengths/weaknesses during the onset of WWII. A part of the world unknown to me and described in the most poetic terms. Race relationships and family ties conflict and intertwine. The theme of rain presented both in sadness and joy. I hope the author continues writing more.
MollyD3694 More than 1 year ago
I am not typically a fan of historical fiction but I could not put this book down. The story line is absolutely compelling and it's so beautifully written, though the subject matter can be difficult at times. I look forward to reading more from this very talented author.
ArtLady1 More than 1 year ago
I read this book twice; once for content and once for style. It is a lyrical story of the Japanese invasion and occupation of Malaya during WWII. The adolescent protagonist (Phillip Hutton) befriends a Japanese Aikido master (Endo San), developing a deep friendship. Phillip's admiration blinds him to the obvious manipulation in which his friend is engaged. Endo San begins to teach Phillip Aikido. He is a dedicated teacher who has found an equally dedicated student. Much of the story revolves around the use of martial arts and the effects of the discipline required. In exchange, Phillip takes his new friend and Sensei (teacher) around Penang, showing him many places that the Japanese then photographs. Endo San asks many questions (too many....and the reader is beginning to become very suspicious as to motive). Phillip, in his eagerness to please and to show his new friend the depth of his knowledge, tells him anything he wants to know. In the second part of the book Phillip is torn between loyalty to his family and friends and loyalty to his Sensei, finally straddling both sides in a very dangerous maneuver. There are many intertwining subplots, stories and fascinating characters as well....too many to go into here. I hope, dear reader, that you enjoy this tale of suspense and love as much as I did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book hooks you into its narrative and leads you through another time and place - several times. The story is gripping and wonderfully written. I could not put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book held my interest throughout especially because of the use of vocabulary and that I did not know the history of the time and place in which the story takes place. The mastery of the author use of English to express sensitivity, love and hatred was exemplary. I felt every emotion that was written about and was sorry when I finished the book. Kudos to the author for evoking such emotions.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book. The writing was beautiful.
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mamahsan More than 1 year ago
OUTSTANDING! Though unnecessary to understand the story, the aurthor makes you WANT to read slowly, that you not miss any nuance, or perfectly turned phrase. I await his next endeavor with the same anticipation as when I waited for The Girl Who Played With Fire.
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