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Publisher's Summary

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, Plain Ruth Swain is in search of her father. To find him 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 her father, Virgil - via pole-vaulting, leaping salmon, poetry and the 3,958 books piled high beneath the two skylights in her room.

©2014 Niall Williams (P)2014 W F Howes Ltd

What the critics say

"Extremely moving, poignantly capturing Ruth's doomed childhood relationship with her twin brother. By the final chapter I was weeping." ( Sunday Times)
"A rambling, soft-hearted Irish family saga stuffed with eccentricity, literature, anecdotes, mythology, humour and heartbreak." ( Kirkus)

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What listeners say about History of the Rain

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Kindle Customer
  • 2017-05-30

The language is astoundingly beautiful.

I can not remember having read/ listened to a more beautifully written book. The use of language is astounding. There is not one false note. It is poetry, at its very best. It is for people who love words. The characters are brilliantly fleshed out through both action and description. If you are looking for a fast read or a plot driven story this book is not for you. If you want to savor and bask in lyrical storytelling I heartily recommend this book. It is joyful and sad. It is about story itself. It is brilliant. The narration is excellent.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Earnest
  • 2014-12-25

Soul scarifyingly beautiful

What did you love best about History of the Rain?

It is rare to find writing that is at once resonant with meaning while remaining most accessible. This lyrical novel is very specific in time and place yet it graciously and often humorously passes many gifts on to the listener. However sympathetic or not one is to questions of origin, religion, even education..without excessive didacticism, the author offers us wisdom. All you really need is a deep love of books.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Ruth and Mary are an extraordinary partnership. In the face of what can only be described as " a difficult life," the two women find ways to excel. The men who surround them are a challenge added to their circumstances.

Which character – as performed by Jennifer McGrath – was your favorite?

It is Ruth's voice we hear narrating and although there are many mispronunciations it feels forgiveable because the earnest tone appears to be a reflection of the character herself.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Many reviewers have remarked on the last chapter already. My choice moments are many: Mary trying to catch Virgil's eye at their first encounter, Ruth's bullies venting their lack of understanding of her at school, a scene where fire engulfs a room, attempting to dissuade a cow from drowning herself....it is very hard to choose from many, many moments that capture your imagination and feelings.

Any additional comments?


The extended metaphors of endless rain and a fast flowing river have been used very often by the authors and poets that are quoted in this novel but the writer manages to create a beautiful new, original version in a very human history meandering through time.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • C in FL
  • 2022-01-03

Just Okay

I much preferred This is Happiness which has a far better narrator and as well as a more interesting story.

in places the language was beautiful, but overall the story was too haphazard, too affected by efforts to be literary, and in many areas it was just over written. It really could have benefitted from a good editor.

i wanted to love this as much as I do This is Happiness, but it's just not as well crafted.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • mark
  • 2021-06-15

A bit pretentious

Characters I didn’t really care a lot about encountering tragedy that I also didn’t care much about. And finally the effort at the end to be uplifting and at one with the world also felt forced. Just ok in summary.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Chi-Girl
  • 2020-07-01

One of my new faves

I loved everything about this book, from the characters to the writing to the amazing narrator. My full review is on Goodreads: Colleen Chi-Girl

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • JCurtis
  • 2015-12-19

Evocative, well read, totally engrossing.

I struggled to start The History of the Rain and decided to set it down. A few months later I came back to it. I am so glad I gave it a second chance. I found myself fully immersed. The writing is pitch perfect, coupled with an equally edept reader. I will come back to this book again, for its frank, funny, tragic, tale. Superb storytelling.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Chrissie
  • 2014-12-18

DEPRESSING and flashing of famed books

This book is d-e-p-r-e-s-s-i-n-g! Must it be SO depressing? It doesn't help that the end tries to close with a hopeful note.

The book is about death and illness and how some people demand so much of themselves that they are doomed to fail. It is also about the importance of stories, our stories. There lies the wisp of hope embedded in the book.

There are some beautiful lines, lines that perceptively reveal human relationships and some of descriptive beauty. I did feel the drumming of the rain on the skylight above Ruth's bed.

The book is written for bibliophiles....maybe. I love books, and I have read a large number of the many referred to, but still this book was not for me. The central character, Ruth, is a bedridden girl of 19. She has decided to read all her father's books, the point being to discover who her father really was. A person's books do say who you are, don't they? She refers to these books by their number in her father's library. Yep, they are all numbered, and they are in the thousands. Poetry and classics. Mythology and history. Dickens and Edith Wharton and Faulkner. Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy too, of course. I objected to how she refers to characters/events in theses famous books as quick explanations for events and characters in her story. (The book we are reading is Ruth's story.) But you can't do that. The situations are not the same; the details are not the same, and it is the details that make a story. It all becomes superficial and cursory. For me this was a disservice to the original literature. In addition, the numerous references to the books' titles, date and city of publication made the writing disjointed.

I didn't feel engaged in the lives of her father, her mother, her grandparents or great grandparents. All are quickly covered. There is too much in too few pages. Her relationship with her twin brother, yes, there the story came alive. Only here did I feel the love that bound these two.

There is humor. Maybe half of it made me laugh.

The setting is Clare, Ireland, after the bust, but the stories of her ancestors go back to the First World War.

The narration of the audiobook by Jennifer McGrath was lovely. Her Irish dialect is beautiful, lilting.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Gail W. Staub
  • 2021-01-30

Better as a Book?

I think this book would be better to read. The author used an unusual technic that I felt interrupted the telling of the story. I did not finish listening as I found this technic very annoying.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Vasco Almeida
  • 2016-09-25

The lure of local flavour

If you could sum up History of the Rain in three words, what would they be?

Irish prose poetry

What did you like best about this story?

The deep, unspoken feelings running through family and community

Which character – as performed by Jennifer McGrath – was your favorite?

Ruth

If you could rename History of the Rain, what would you call it?

River Swain

Any additional comments?

The narrator's accent contributes in no small measure to the 'placement' of the story; and the calm tone used in the rendering underlined the intimacy felt throughout the narrative.

1 person found this helpful