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The Gift of Rainby Tan Twan Eng
"As the novel is set in 1939, and features Japanese and Chinese characters, a reasonably educated reader can sense that the story is destined for tragedy, and Gift of Rain is rife with it. However, between these moments of absolute heartbreak are passages of dazzling lyricism that explore the nature of honor and loyalty to family and nation." Gerry Donaghy, Powells.com (read the entire Powells.com review)
Synopses & Reviews
An epic novel nominated for the Man Booker Prize, this extraordinary debut tells the story of a young man's perilous journey through the betrayals of war and into manhood.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Ironies and contradictions are at the heart of "The Gift of Rain," Tan Twan Eng's ambitious, expansive first novel set in Penang, Malaya, during the Japanese occupation. Philip Hutton, the bright and serious-minded son of a Chinese mother and a British father, is the head of Hutton & Sons. The Huttons are among Penang's oldest and wealthiest trading families, and Philip lives with his father and... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) three older half-siblings in colonial splendor, attended by faithful retainers and cocooned in privilege. But Philip has always felt like an outsider, a misfit. As the offspring of a mixed marriage, he is the only "half-caste" in a thoroughly English family. He is befriended by Hayato Endo, a Japanese diplomat three times his age, who lives alone on a small island leased from Philip's father. The descendant of an old Samurai family in disgrace since his own father disagreed with the emperor's military policy, Endo-san is skilled in aikijutsu, one of the oldest martial arts. As their secret friendship develops, Endo-san becomes Philip's sensei, training him in the principles and techniques of aikijutsu, introducing him to the mysteries of Zen and reincarnation, and teaching him to read and write Japanese. Inevitably, as war breaks out and the island's fears of a Japanese invasion are realized, Philip's friendship with Endo-san becomes increasingly dangerous and fraught with irreconcilable conflicts involving duty, loyalty, love and destiny. The author of this sensitive, humane and resolutely sedate novel is a young Malaysian lawyer and black belt in aikido who writes with deep insight into the history and topography of his native homeland and with deep feeling for its natural beauties. I only wish he could have been as attentive to his characters, who seem as heavy of speech as they are nimble of movement, and given to such utterances as, "You have brought the rain, and for this I thank you." Or: "I was told you have had some lessons. I would be very much obliged if you show me some of them." It isn't the stilted dialogue alone that does these characters a disservice. Buried in this saga of betrayal, deceit and oppression is another story of betrayal, deceit and repression — the story of an impossible, doomed love between a young boy and an older man. In hinting at, rather than bringing to light, this poignant reality, the author has created another kind of ambiguity, one that obscures rather than advances a riveting tale. Wendy Law-Yone is a Burmese-American novelist living in England. Reviewed by Wendy Law-Yone, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Strong characters and page-turning action make this a top pick for historical fiction....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." Library Journal
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.
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.
About the Author
Tan Twan Eng was born in Penang and lived in various regions of 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 respected law firms. He has a first-dan ranking in aikido and is a strong proponent for the conservation of heritage buildings. Eng divides his time between Kuala Lumpur and Cape Town.
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