Written in lush, evocative prose, The Gift of Rain spans decades as it takes readers from the final days of the Chinese emperors to the dying era of the British Empire, and through the mystical temples, bustling cities, and forbidding rain forests of Malaya.
In 1939, sixteen-year-old Philip Hutton—the half-Chinese youngest child of the head of one of Penang’s great trading families—feels alienated from both the British and Chinese communities. He discovers a sense of belonging in his unexpected friendship with Hayato Endo, a Japanese diplomat who rents an island from his father. Philip proudly shows his new friend around his adored island of Penang, 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. As World War II rages in Europe, the Japanese savagely invade Malaya, and 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 he is forced into collaborating with the Japanese to safeguard his family. He turns into the ultimate outsider, trusted by none and hated by many.
Tormented by his part in the events, Philip risks everything by working in secret to save as many people as he can from the brutality of the invaders. The Gift of Rain is shot through with universal themes, a novel about agonizingly divided loyalties and unbearable loss. But it is also about human courage and—ultimately—about the nature of enduring loyalty.
THE GIFT OF RAIN
[A] remarkable debut saga of intrigue and aikido...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...measured, believable and enthralling.”
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.”
Don't open this book unless you are ready to be swept away.”
The Gift of Rain is an amazing book. Love, cruelty, sacrifice are all here -- and more. With its beautifully evoked place and time, this quietly spellbinding novel tells of lives lived through war and occupation, through years of alliances, bonds, and betrayals with compelling grace and rare depth. The Gift of Rain embodies, in a way this reader has seldom encountered, how what can be heartbreaking in life can also be heartmaking.”
I loved The Gift of Rain and will recommend it to all my bookselling friends. It’s a beautiful work of historical fiction, but its themes also make it timely and relevant—a look at the excruciating choices that war inflicts on civilians. A small nation, an inconsequential battleground, a footnote to the greater world war is the setting for one young man’s coming of age. His journey into adulthood is mesmerizing, painful, and illuminates an unquenchable human spirit to survive.”
It is very, very hard to move on to another novel after The Gift of Rain. It was a wonderful reading experience and I am still so immersed in it. This story of past lives and old destinies is handled with as much power as grace. The author has the wrenching and profound task of illustrating the beauty and cruelty of human choices against the vast canvas of history and time. The luminous descriptions and exquisite awareness of the characters' emotions are a testimony to the author’s craft.”
“Beautifully written and deeply moving, Tan Twan Eng's debut novel is one of the best books I've ever read…. [The Gift of Rain] is a grand old-fashioned novel, intricately plotted, filled with incident and vivid, fascinating characters…Anyone who thinks the novel is in decline should read this one.”
“Glorious… Rain is a gift indeed, as robustly absorbing as it is achingly poignant.”
“Eng’s graceful prose evokes a time and place that is little known or remembered now, making it both exotic and familiar, and his beautiful narrative is woven with strong images and characters….The Gift of Rain is a gift to read.”
“The Gift of Rain is a rich and rewarding novel.…Eng’s writing is luminous and dreamy…. sends the reader back into the world of Somerset Maugham—the waning British Empire, the simmering discord between classes and races, the thick tropical surroundings that are both beautiful and suffocating—but at a different angle. Maugham cast a cynical eye on human nature and its frailties; Tan Twan Eng looks upon them with compassion, like a creator might view the imperfections of his handiwork.”
A true saga…[The Gift of Rain] overflows with mesmerizing beauty and wonder...an eloquent tale about friendship transforms into a frightful chronicle of betrayal and survival.”
Thrilling, introspective…a meditation on the deals humans make to survive, as well as the bond between a pupil and his teacher in an Asian culture. Tan Twan Eng's lucid writing carries along the story effortlessly.”
The Gift of Rain is a beautiful novel about an achingly difficult time in history, the Japanese invasion of Malaysia during WW II. The characters, particularly 18 yr. old Philip must navigate an impossible landscape of loyalty, love and subterfuge within the shifting island cultures. While grand in sweep this novel's grace is in the intimate details of the characters lives where the fiercest love sits alongside betrayal. What a compelling story that still will not let me go.”
Tan Twan Eng's powerful novel, The Gift of Rain, shows us what it feels like to be outside, then included; to be lonely, then loved; to be trusted, then betrayed. Eng reminds us that wars, and events leading up to wars, are messy, that loyalties are tangled webs not easily divided, and that even those not involved in a conflict can be used, damaged, and changed forever. Rain is a literary masterpiece that was difficult to put down.”
A powerful first novel”
A rich, absorbing epic”
A remarkable book…about war, friendship, memory and discipline.”