History of the Rain
We are our stories. We tell them to stay alive or keep alive those who only live now in the telling. In Faha, County Clare, everyone is a long story…
Bedbound in her attic room beneath the falling rain, in the margin between this world and the next, Plain Ruth Swain is in search of her father. To find him, enfolded in the mystery of ancestors, Ruthie must first trace the jutting jaw lines, narrow faces and gleamy skin of the Swains from the restless Reverend Swain, her great-grandfather, to grandfather Abraham, to her father, Virgil – via pole-vaulting, leaping salmon, poetry and the three thousand, nine hundred and fifty eight books piled high beneath the two skylights in her room, beneath the rain.
The stories – of her golden twin brother Aeney, their closeness even as he slips away; of their dogged pursuit of the Swains’ Impossible Standard and forever falling just short; of the wild, rain-sodden history of fourteen acres of the worst farming land in Ireland – pour forth in Ruthie’s still, small, strong, hopeful voice. A celebration of books, love and the healing power of the imagination, this is an exquisite, funny, moving novel in which every sentence sings.
This is an important new book and, without spoiling the riveting last chapter next Friday, the rewards increase tenfold the further into the story one gets * Book at Bedtime, Radio Times * A surge of language, beautiful and enchanting, a novel that weaves a love of literature into its own moving tale * Guardian * Extremely moving, poignantly capturing Ruth's doomed childhood relationship with her twin brother. By the final chapter I was weeping * Sunday Times * The Anne Enright award for the Irish novel most guaranteed to make you cry ... Niall Williams wins this year's award on the strength of his title alone ... Suffused with warmth and humour * Independent on Sunday * Deeply allusive, infectiously hopeful ... Somewhere between bildungsroman, epic and family saga, History of the Rain is an unashamedly unfashionable, lyrical paean to the pleasure of reading and to serendipity ... A fresh and powerful reminder that: "We tell stories to heal the pain of living * Daily Telegraph * Why Niall Williams's History of the Rain did not win every literary prize is baffling: it provided the most satisfying read of 2014. It is a novel about books and being a bookish, serious reader, as well as about family, Irish village life, devotion and weather, invariably rain. Books rarely make me weep nowadays, but this one did, for all the right reasons - its sublime and funny prose is totally engaging. I could not bear it to end * Kate Johnson, Readers' Books of the Year 2014, Guardian *
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