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The Gift of Rain: A Novel Hardcover – May 1, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 640 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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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From The New Yorker

Set in Penang in the years just before and during the Second World War, this début novel explores the consequences of love and duty. Philip Hutton, born to a British father and a Chinese mother, finds himself drawn to a mysterious Japanese diplomat and aikido master, and soon becomes his devoted student. But their friendship—described in romantic, even erotic terms—is called into question when the Japanese invade the island and Philip must decide whether to join the resistance or collaborate with the occupying army. The wartime narrative is gripping, but Eng’s story suffers from stilted dialogue, which is often pressed into service for historical exposition, and overwrought fight scenes. More profoundly, the narrative’s gestures toward mythology and a philosophy of reincarnation feel like a distraction from the more compelling concerns of loyalty and loss.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Weinstein Books; First Edition edition (May 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1602860246
  • ISBN-13: 978-1602860247
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (640 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #57,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Elderly Philip Hutton is the last surviving member of one of Penang's trading families when the bachelor quiet of his life is shattered by an unexpected visitor, a Japanese woman called Michiko Murakami. And although they have never met before, their histories are interlinked: both cared deeply for the same man, Hayato Endo, and need to find relief for past pain by sharing their life-stories.

Philip first meets the enigmatic Endo, a Japanese diplomat who is leasing a small island from Phillip's father, in 1939. Half-British, half-Chinese Philip is a loner and a misfit, and finds himself drawn into a relationship with Endo, who takes him on as his student and teaches him aikido-jitsu - a martial art still in its infancy, as well as the Japanese language and culture. As the clouds of war grow increasingly ominous, it is clear that Endo is training Phillip in skills which will eventually save his life. But is Endo all that he appears to be, and should Phillip be prepared to trust him? Once the Japanese invade, Philip is forced to make the most difficult decisions about where his loyalties must lie.

There is a tremendous amount of historical fact and, of course, as in any Malaysian novel aimed at an international readership, a great deal of information on the complex social background of the country. What is quite amazing is that despite this the pace of the story never becomes bogged down by a heavy load of background detail. Indeed where the novel succeeds best is in the strong drive of the narrative, and in the painstaking recreation of the setting.

Penang of the thirties and forties is brought to life so well that you feel that you could almost be reading a contemporary account.
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Format: Hardcover
TGOR is a fantastic novel that brings everything to the table: beautiful language, history, suspense, big themes of torn loyalty and self-discovery.
It's one of those rare examples of a deeply satisfying novel that leaves nothing to be desired.

Set during WWII-era, the novel stars Philip Hutton, the half-Chinese son of a wealthy English trader living in Penang, Malaysia.
Philip's mixed blood causes him not to be fully accepted by either the Chinese or the English, leaving him unsure of his place in the world.

Then, one day, he meets a visiting Japanese official, Endo-san, who takes him on as a pupil to teach him the secrets of aikido along with the underlying 'way of life'.
Endo's motives are not completely disinterested, though: with the Japanese preparing to invade Malaysia, Endo can get a lot of information out a young boy so familiar with the island grounds.
When the Japanese ultimately occupy Penang, Philip must make a choice: he can betray his people, by siding with the Japanese, or fight against the latter. Caught between two fires, Philips opts for a compromise of some sort: he becomes the aide of Endo (a high-ranking official of the invading forces) but uses his influence to soften the effects of the domination.
Nothing is really black-or-white in the way Philip or Endo-san behave. Just like in real life, characters are torn between feelings of love and duty, between fear and vengeance.
Endo-san relationships with Philip lives in this space and is very cleverly constructed.

If the setting alone (I gather most western reader won't be overly familiar with Japan role during WWII, aside from the main events we all know about) doesn't draw you in, the engaging narrative will do, coupled with evocative passages that offer dreamlike depictions of the lush Malay landscapes.

Higly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was about 10% into reading this book when I started recommending it to others. I was hoping as I got further into it that I wouldn't be dissapointed because I'd already started telling others it was a "must read" and it just kept getting better and better. My previous best book of the year was "Cutting for Stone" by Verghese but this has now been displaced by "Gift of Rain" as the most entertaining, literary, emotional, enjoyable, novel I've read this year. It is hugely entertaining and explores deep emotions, family ties, the nature of loyalties, fate and destiny in a way that is compelling and profound without every becoming sappy or cliched. Please....someone tell me where I can find another book like this to read next!
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Format: Hardcover
A tale well written and well told. On one level, this book provides insight into the blending of three major cultures (Western, Chinese & Japanese) via the protagonist, Philip Hutton, a British-Chinese young male and his interactions in the melting pot of what is now Malaysia from pre- to post-WWII. Main characters include the protagonist's family, both British and Chinese along with their help, Chinese families and Japanese military personnel. One of these Japanese people is Philip's of mentor\teacher ("sensei") whose fate is intertwined with Philip's throughout the book. Their relationship and its ramifications is at the core of the story.

On another level, the book explores the morality of choices one makes in life and the impact that has on current and future times in the lives of the main characters. The concepts of fate, destiny and choice, in the context of one's culture underlie the story. An extension of that is the impact different cultural values have when differing cultures collide.

I have no hesitation in recommending this book as it is a well-written and intriguing tale which made me think about what I had read each time I put the book down. It also made me reflect on the choices I might have made if I were in any of the main characters' position. Finally, i enjoyed the WWII historical background.
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