The Gift Of Rain
Longlisted for The 2007 Man Booker Prize eventually won by Anne Enright's The Gathering, having read The Gift Of Rain I feel it was cruelly overlooked and should have been a greater contender.
Its protagonist is an aging Phillip Hutton who when born had been the product of a wealthy British colonial father and a Chinese immigrant mother in Penang, Malaysia. The only surviving member of the Hutton family, he keeps the good name of his father's business alive. One night he is visited by a dying woman named Michiko who has come to find out about her lost love Endo. From there the novel takes place largely in flashback as Phillip relates to Michiko his relationship with Endo-san from start to finish.
Reading The Gift Of Rain reminded me so much of what I love about literature generally. Its ability to transport you to times past and other places, places that no longer are as they once were so that even if you travelled to their location on the map, you wouldn't find them. Recently I've been to Lagos, and the Tudor Court, in this instance I got to travel to pre-war and wartime Malaysia, and Tan Twan Eng paints a beautiful mental image with his descriptions.
I loved the tangled emotional complexities of Phillip and Endo's relationship. Some may feel that at certain points Phillip's behaviour in response to Endo's behaviour lacks credulity in the context, but then you remember the parameters set between them and their beliefs about their past and future. Like Philip you feel your gut drop when you put certain things together. Other characters are great too, Kon and Isabel particularly.
The strength of the novel ultimately is the writing, some beautifully executed descriptive prose and a portrait of a kind of love not often seen in literature wrapped up in the twists and turns of wartime intrigue. This book is thoroughly worth reading and I do urge you to buy it. 10/10