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History of the Rain by Niall Williams
Ruth Swain, aged 19, is the narrator of this moving story set mainly in Faha in County Clare ‘where everyone is a long story.’ Confined to bed due to a blood disease, she recounts the Swain family biography, taking in Wiltshire and the trenches of World War 1, and finally County Clare where her father, the poet Virgil Swain, lives with her mother Mary MacCarroll and Ruth’s beloved twin brother, Aeney. Along the way we meet her great-grandfather Reverend Swain, her grandfather Abraham, and we learn of their pursuit of the Swain ‘Impossible Standard’, which they forever fall just short of attaining. Virgil’s life seems about to fall short in the same vein as his ancestors when the bank closes in on his parents’ house and he goes to work at sea. However, his fortune changes when he arrives in Clare and meets Mary. This is the very positive event in his life. His marriage to her and the birth of their twins sustain him, though the tragedy and loss that follows the family also afflicts Virgil as he struggles to farm on fourteen acres of very poor land where the crop fails and the river floods. He is a poet who doesn’t publish but he reads the poems of William Blake to his cows!
These stories are told by Ruth as she writes, cocooned in her attic room, with the 3,958 books from Virgil's library surrounding her bed. From this vantage point under the skylight she listens to the seemingly endless rain and searches for the essence of her father through stories. The novel is packed with references to literature and the joy of books and reading. It is a poignant portrayal of a family and a community, with touches of laugh-out-loud humour and wonderfully poetic prose.
‘A surge of language, beautiful and enchanting, a novel that weaves a love of literature into its own moving tale’ Guardian
‘A celebration of books, love and the healing power
of the imagination’
Born in Dublin, Niall Williams has lived in Kiltumper, Co Clare for the past 30 years. He is the author of eight novels, three stage plays, four non-fiction works and several screenplays. History of the Rain has been shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize.
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