The Gift of Rain: A Novel

The Gift of Rain: A Novel

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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781602860599
Publisher: Weinstein Books
Publication date: 05/05/2009
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 114,805
File size: 738 KB
Age Range: 15 - 18 Years

About 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. 50 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.
bookmart on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was OK. I didn't really connect to the characters, I felt a little remote.
bibliobibuli on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I ALWAYS read new Malaysian fiction with a sense of trepidation: on the one hand I want the book so very much to succeed, but on the other every little disappointment is felt even more keenly. A few pages into Tan Twan Eng¿s first novel, The Gift of Rain, I began to relax, and by the end of the first chapter I was so totally hooked that everything else had to be put on hold until I¿d finished it! The quiet life of the elderly Philip Hutton, the last surviving member of one of Penang¿s great trading families, is shattered by an unexpected visitor, a Japanese woman called Michiko Murakami. 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 Philip¿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 then ¿ as well as the Japanese language and culture. As the clouds of war grow increasingly ominous, it is clear that Endo is training Philip in skills that will eventually save his life. But is Endo all that he appears to be, and should Philip 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 1930s and 1940s is brought to life so well that you feel that you could almost be reading a contemporary account. Particularly vivid are the scenes of the British attempting to flee Penang during the first air raids, and the harrowing scene of a village massacre. Although written in a style that deliberately does not draw attention to itself, the novel unashamedly draws on romantic Oriental elements with the deliberate chinoiserie of the imagery (the waves unroll like Chinese scrolls, the clouds are compared to a dragon¿s belly) and the delicate motifs of insects ¿ fireflies, butterflies and dragonflies, which each represent an aspect of the story. The Gift of Rain is in every sense a ¿big¿ book, not only substantial in size, but also in theme, and in the amount of incident that is crammed into it. It¿s hard to know just how to pigeonhole this book. Literary fiction? Thriller? Historical novel? Big screen kung-fu movie with Hollywood glitz and glamour translated to the page? The novel combines elements of all of these, yet succeeds very much on its own terms and should appeal strongly to both an international and a local readership.
bcquinnsmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The matter at the crux of this novel is Philip Hutton's sense of self. He is the only child of his father's second marriage to a Chinese woman; he has never felt that he belongs either to the Chinese world or to the European world. He was never close with his siblings, often remaining aloof and alone, hanging back in family situations. This situation also puts constraints on friendships -- he doesn't fit in with any of the boys his age and is often teased about his mixed parentage. A Japanese aikido master rents a house on a small island belonging to the wealthy Hutton family and befriends Philip, offering to teach him aikido. Philip's family is away in Europe (just before the war begins) and Philip takes him up on it. Soon a relationship develops between the two that runs very deep; the Japanese man, Endo-san, becomes Philip's sensei. Just before Philip's family returns from Europe, Philip's Chinese grandfather comes back into his life, and the two become close. Philip's family eventually returns from Europe and he realizes that the distance and time away from his family on both sides gave them all a chance to become closer upon their return. But now, it becomes obvious that war is imminent, and that the Japanese are going to attack Malaysia, the home of the Huttons. People are already suspicious of Endo-san, and of Philip as well since he's been seen everywhere with his sensei. Philip comes to realize that his friendship with Endo-san has put his family & indeed their very way of existence into jeopardy; to save his family once the Japanese occupy Malaysia, he has to make a horrible choice.On page 283, he notes the following:"When would I find a sense of my self, integrated, whole, without this constant pulling from all sides, each wanting my complete devotion and loyalty?" This statement pretty much sums up the entire story of Philip Hutton. What he must endure to find peace within himself is the meat of this book. If I had any say, this one would be on the shortlist for the Booker Prize this year. It is a truly unforgettable story; I finished it three days ago and still can't get it out of my mind. The writing is superb, the story is amazing, and the characters are very well developed and well fleshed out. I think I'd use the word "haunting" to describe this novel; for some reason I don't understand, it really resonated with me. It was hard to get through without the occasional kleenex in my hand. Some people may be put off by some of the spiritual aspects in the story, but that may be the only drawback I can see as far as the enjoyment of this novel as a whole.I most highly recommend this novel, and if the Booker judges pass on this one, something is just wrong. (FYI: I know the shortlist is out but I haven't looked at it yet so as not to color my reading of these books.)It deserves the 5 stars and more.
plenilune on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An ambitious and gorgeously descriptive novel that ultimately failed to satisfy. Philip, the narrator, makes bad choice after bad choice and is painfully slow to grasp truths that everyone else around him seems to be able to grasp somewhat easily. He is completely seduced both mentally and emotionally (whether it is also physically is never made clear) by his teacher, Endo-san, a character I found enigmatic and unworthy of rapt, blind devotion. Despite the lushly poetic prose, the novel is overwhelmingly harsh and male. I suppose any novel dealing with war is by need harsh, but between the marginalized female characters (who frankly seemed more interesting to me than Philip) and the lengthy martial arts sequences, it lost me. While both the fine writing and fascinating history behind the story compelled me to finish the book, I would be hesistant to pick up anything else by the author.
WisteriaLeigh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
THE GIFT OF RAINTan Twan EngWeinstein Books978-160286074-2May 2009448 pages¿I was born with the gift of rain, an ancient soothsayer in an even more ancient temple once told me.¿ The first line of the story begins as the elder Philip Hutton recalls his life¿s story. The fortune-teller cautions Philip early on: ¿You were born with the gift of rain. Your life will be abundant with wealth and success. But life will test you greatly. Remember-the rain also brings the flood.¿Philip is the storyteller, his listener is Michiko Murakami a woman who shows up one evening at his home, during the rain. She brings with her a package, a sword. A sword Philip immediately recognizes as that of his beloved Endo-san, his sensei. It is not until the end of the story that the significance of this sword will be learned. The Gift of Rain takes place on the Malayan island of Penang in 1939. Philip is the son of an affluent British merchant of social prominence living on the Malayan island of Penang at the beginning of World War II. His father owns Hutton & Sons, a company founded by his great-grandfather. His father¿s first wife died leaving three children. His mother was Yu Lian, his father¿s second wife. Philip has vague memories of his mother who died when he was a young boy. His father and he were never close, his business consumed his life. Philip never felt a connection with his siblings, being of mixed parentage, he always felt different. He was not accepted by the Chinese or the English so he drifted his own way alone. His studies were important to him and he became fluent in Chinese and English along with the local languages. Feeling isolated it is no wonder that Philip becomes the student of Endo-san, a Japanese diplomat living on an island nearby. His lessons are in aikijutsu, but his studies take him far beyond the rudiments of the physical discipline. Endo-san¿s teachings are broad and far reaching, Philip learns to trust his teacher, their bond is unique, cohesive and loving. When the Japanese invade Penang, Philip¿s loyalty to family and loyalty to his sensei are tested. When the lives of his family are placed in jeopardy, his fateful decision will label him a traitor, but to him a choice he had to make. I love the character of Philip, his vulnerability, his alienation, his determination, his self discovery and his blind loving trust that he develops with Endo-san. Endo-san, older and much more worldly, has a plan for Philip. He takes advantage of his youth and the takeover of Penang works in his favor. They are on opposing sides and it is war. The trust they share is a precarious place for both.The Gift of Rain will touch you in its sweet grip and shock you with its brutality. It is a thought provoking look at the lives of those who endured the Japanese occupation of Penang during World War II. A camera lens in text provides a historical look at the culture of the Chinese residents, the Japanese invaders and the British merchants who either stayed or fled. Tan Twan Eng¿s beautiful poetic prose is a marvelous melody of emotions. His words should be unhurried, letting them linger, an echo to be heard again. It is easy to see why The Gift of Rain was nominated for the Man Booker Prize. Highly recommended. © [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2010].
lynnytisc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is beautifully written and tells the tale of Phillip, son of an English businessman and a Chinese woman. He lives in Penang at the advent of World War II. Because of his mixed parentage he feels like an outsider in his family. He befriends a Japanese sensei and is school in the akido martial arts. He unwittingly shares too much with this man aiding the Japanese. His story is very beautiful. The history is enriching and I highly recommend it.
DeltaQueen50 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng is a first novel and although an interesting and intriguing story I found parts of this book just didn¿t resonate with me. I never felt totally connected to the characters, it was if I was watching the story unfold through a silk screen. Beautiful to look at, but not personally engaging.Set on the island of Penang off the mainland coast of Malaysia, there are many inviting descriptions of lush jungles and warm, tropical beaches. Born to a white man and his second wife, a Chinese woman, made Philip feel as if he didn¿t fit it anywhere. With the British or with the Chinese people, even in his own family with his three half siblings, Philip never felt he belonged. Malaysia was very much a multi-cultural country, but these cultures kept to themselves. At the impressionable age of sixteen, he meets a Japanese man who is destined to be his friend and mentor. Teaching Philip the art and discipline of aikido, Hayato Endo gives Philip a sense of belonging. But the year is 1939, and the world is on the brink of war. Soon enough the Japanese will be invading Philips¿ beautiful country, bringing the savageness and terror to him and his family. Worst of all is the discovery that the man whom Philip reveres above all, is in fact a Japanese spy with Philip as his unwitting collaboratorPhilip looks back on his life as a an older man, well into his sixties. Putting his life into perspective., he himself seems to remove himself from the story, telling it like an observer not a participant. The main themes of the book honor, loyalty and fate appear again and again in his story, but I just wish some passion had been there as well.
squarespiral on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very nice work in which Aikido (jap. martial art) and especially the japanese teacher-student relationship plays a central role. From my own knowledge of the martial art I can certify that the concepts and descriptions are quite accurate.The stile is quite poetic and I found this book overall a quite entertaining read. I felt however, that the conflict of cooperation versus fighting the occupants of one's country (the second central topic) was not carved out to its full potential (half a star off for that). In the end the book fell a bit short of its potential but I'm looking forward to read more from this author.
angela.vaughn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have to admit that this book took me a few chapters to really get into it. However, those chapters where not bad, just not full of action. Once you get past those few chapters, this book is full of history. It is the story of one mans journey through WWII in a wealthy British family, as the only bi-racial member. I found the journey of his life was so unique of a story that I found myself wanting a little more. It is not a story that is easy to read and so many times you feel as if you don't know where your own loyalities would lie if you were there.This is a must read, and don't give up after the first few chapters, it does get better.
kellyn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While I was occassionally impatient with Eng's passive voice in this book, the compelling nature of Phillip's struggles moved the story along. I know little about the occupation of Malaya by the Japanese and found Eng's account fascinating and horrifying. I appreciated this different perspective and the moral dilemnas faced by Phillip.
ddirmeyer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The inside flap of this novel describes it as an epic and I heartedly agree. Phillip Hutton, resident of Malay and son of a British businessman and a Chinese mother, finds himself befriended by a Japanese aikido master in the months prior to WWII. Having never felt a part of his English or his Chinese heritage, Phillip finds himself willingly becoming Endo-san's pupil, friend, and constant companion. Phillip's struggles to come to terms with his place in his family, his country, his friendship with Endo-san, and in the war become the backbone of this novel. Eng provides vivid, almost poetic, descriptions of the country and time period of this book. We learn a great deal about Phillip during his teens and twenties as well as his current life in his seventies. This is a griping, tragic, complex novel. It is ambitious for a first novel, but Eng holds our attention, and his storyline, until the very end.
SulfurDog on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Talk about getting hit over the head with literary aspirations ! Page after page of hokey high schoolish descriptions, dialog and embarassing forays into Orientalism.O and one other thing, can we assume that Phillip and Endo were not only student and teacher but also lovers ? Am I way off base here ? I would like to hear from others in this regard.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book. The writing was beautiful.
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