No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

2016/07: The Man Who Rained --Ali Shaw

she had left wet footprints across the courtyard floor, which was bone dry, despite the falling rain. A transformation was happening at knee-height. She watched a raindrop break there prematurely, shattering against the thin air. Then the shape of its suspended splash became that of spread insect wings, [loc. 2045]

Following the death of her stormchaser father and an unwanted marriage proposal, Elsa flees New York for Thunderstown -- a small, isolated settlement surrounded by mountains, streets laid out in a spiral that, from the air, calls to mind a weather system. Elsa first saw Thunderstown from the air, from a plane, and became obsessed with visiting. But she couldn't have expected the town's oddities. There are wild dogs with sky-coloured eyes: she sees one killed by Daniel Fossiter, the Culler. Kenneth, who runs the B&B, tells her about the myths surrounding the mountains, and explains that the streets are named after aspects of the town's mining history. She learns of Old Man Thunder, a local legend blamed for the town's weather-related mishaps. And one day, walking in the mountains, she sees outcast Finn Munro do something utterly inexplicable.

There is a great deal of doomed love in this novel, from Daniel's helpless adoration of Finn's mother Betty to the attraction Elsa feels for Finn. Nobody in Thunderstown (with the possible exception of the nuns of St Catharine) seems especially happy: Elsa, busily ignoring her mother's gifts to her and indulging in solitary wanderings, seems intentionally disconnected from the world. The townspeople are narrow-minded and fearful, rejecting the magic around them. (They're also, to my jaundiced eye, somewhat stereotypical: cricket-mad West Indian, eccentric but jolly nun, repressive councillor.) As I recall, everyone is single: nobody loves.

It's almost as though love and weather are the same thing ...

The world Shaw describes is beautiful and tragic. There is some marvellous prose herein: and yet I can't say that the characters engaged me as much as the setting. True, Daniel becomes somewhat more likeable, and Finn has some interesting observations on human life and love: but I felt there was a two-dimensional feel to The Man Who Rained, and I didn't enjoy it as much as The Girl with Glass Feet.

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