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History of the Rain: A Novel Hardcover – May 6, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (May 6, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1620406470
  • ISBN-13: 978-1620406472
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* From her boat-shaped bed in the attic room of her family’s County Clare thatched-roof home, invalid Ruth Swain tries to uncover the secret of her father’s tortured life. She is surrounded by the thousands of books he devoured, everything from Dostoyevsky to Dickens, García Marquez to Galsworthy. In the stories of others, Ruth hopes to find her own family’s story, which begins with her rigidly religious great-grandfather, who set in motion the Swain quest for impossibly high standards. The failure to meet them will resonate for generations, culminating in the struggles of her father, Virgil, a dreamer and fisherman, the Irish prerequisites for becoming a poet. His inspiration arrived the night Ruth and her twin brother, Aeney, were born; it died the day Aeney drowned. Now housebound with a mysterious ailment, Ruth wants to write her father’s story in a book of her own before she dies. You can smell the peat burning and feel the ever-present mist in acclaimed Irish novelist Williams’ (John, 2008) luscious paean to all who lose themselves in books. Williams captures the awe and all of Ireland—its myths and mysteries, miseries and magic—through the pitch-perfect voice of a saucily defiant young woman who has witnessed too much tragedy but who clings devotedly to those she’s lost. --Carol Haggas

Review

"Destined to be a classic, [History of the Rain] isn't just the elegy Ruthie offers to the departed but also a love letter to reading and its life-giving powers. [Ruthie's] voice and narrative remain utterly unique even as she invites comparisons to Jim Hawkins, Ishmael, and hosts of legendary nliterary narrators." - Library Journal, starred review

"You can smell the peat burning and feel the ever-present mist in acclaimed Irish novelist Williams’ luscious paean to all who lose themselves in books. Williams captures the awe and all of Ireland—its myths and mysteries, miseries and magic—through the pitch-perfect voice of a saucily defiant young woman who has witnessed too much tragedy but who clings devotedly to those she’s lost." - Booklist, starred review

"History of the Rain is charming, wise and beautiful. It is a love letter to Ireland in all its contradictions, to literature and poetry and family. It acknowledges that faith itself is a paradox, both impossible and necessary. And faith carries this novel--faith that stories can save us, that love endures, that acceptance is within reach, and finally, that it is possible to get to the other side of grief." - Shelf Awareness

"[An] Irish family saga stuffed with eccentricity, literature, anecdotes, mythology, humor and heartbreak." - Kirkus


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Customer Reviews

Beautifully written, wonderful story development, and characters.
catriona
This heartfelt story gives the reader, joy, sorrow and tears but more often you will find yourself laughing out loud and wanting to start the book again.
michele taylor
This was a particularly lovely novel with so many references to literature and Irish folklore.
J. S. Davis

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Katherine Mackenzie on August 21, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"There's a book inside you. There's a library inside me."

I woke up thinking about this novel, and I almost regret dedicating my morning to finishing it. But sometimes a story begs to be devoured.

Sometimes, you can tell an author is a devout reader through their writing. Niall Williams clearly is one of these types, based on History of the Rain. So, of course, I love him the more for it. This is a story of family, history, love, tragedy, Ireland, and books. And it's probably my favorite Man Booker 2014 longlisted novel so far.

Ruth lives in her room due to a vague illness and a fear of the outdoors. She's inherited her father's extensive library, where she attempts to find him, one book at a time. Throughout the story, books are dropped like rain, and I was personally reminded of how many I need to experience. Though I'm very familiar with one of the most important writers frequently mentioned: Yeats. For how could you not include him in an Irish novel about writing and poetry? So, he's there. History of the Rain will surely strike a chord in people who appreciate not just the story inside the books, but the history and physicality of them as well. I'm firmly in the camp of books being a necessary part of my home's ecosystem. But as I've gotten older I've come to relish certain stories not just for the meaning of their content but for the fact that they were purchased and read by my father. A few he's given to me, and reading them is something personally spectacular. Though I'm not searching for my father in the way Ruth must, I find through his books how he came to be who he is now, before I ever existed.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Joan Elaine Hitchie on August 2, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I would give this book a hundred stars if I could. It is a classic about Ruth,a young Irish girl, struggling to find her way through despair and illness. The author takes the reader into the heart of her family. The characters have sharp powers of observation, flights of fancy, the love of talk, and great wit with a trace of sorrow, traits, it is maintained that the Irish have in abundance. I often forget the storyline and characters shortly after I have read a book. That will never happen with History of the Rain.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Sascot on August 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover
One could finish this book feeling cheated by the narrator, Ruth, who never tells us precisely what illness she suffers from but one doesn't. This novel ebbs and flows like the mighty River Shannon that plays such an integral part to the story of the Swain family over three generations, most especially for Ruth's father, Virgil. All too often when one has a narrator a story has no momentum.In the History of the Rain, the author never allows Ruth's story to flag.

This is a deeply moving book that shows us what it is to be ourselves. There are moments of terrible sadness here when death strikes because the reader is made aware of the love that everyone has for each other that makes these events profoundly moving using an extraordinary economy of words.Ruth makes you feel part of this family and the wider community as she views the world from the restricted confines of her room in the attic through the pages of the massive quantity of books that threaten her very safety. You dare not skip a sentence, for if you do you might miss a sharp comment or observation that will have you in stitches; that Irish humour that enables them not to take life too seriously, which Ruth has in abundance. The glue that bonds the entire story together is literature, and more importantly, poetry but do not allow the amazing references that the author provides to distract you from what is ultimately a deeply emotional tale of one family, whose refusal to conform to the ordinary provides us with characters in this book, with not a mean one amongst them, for whom one generates an enormous affection.This is possibly my most enjoyable read of the year.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Helen on July 30, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I didn't really enjoy this book when I started it. The main character, Ruth, was okay but a bit annoying. I found the flipping back and forward through time irritating and the prose somewhat stilted. It seemed clear where the plot was going and I wasn't even sure I'd finish it.

But it began to creep up on me bit by bit. Perhaps it was when Ruth told of her parents' love affair. Maybe it was earlier and she reveals the close bonds she has with her twin, Aeney. Regardless, by the end I was furiously highlighting passages to go back and treasure later, and reading through a veil of tears. History of the Rain is a beautiful tale of the trials and joys of life. Not necessarily a dramatic life, although some may well think it so, but a life that anyone might live. It's told with a poet's heart and a poet's soul, weaving in Irish culture and history, and literature from all over. Set in the small Irish town of Faha, Williams brings the countryside and its inhabitants to life in a way that is neither twee nor patronising nor melancholic.

Best of all, I think I may just spend tomorrow afternoon reading Yeats out loud to myself as a result. Thank you, Mr. Williams, you may just have set an Impossible Standard for others to follow.
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