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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

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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    34
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Performance

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    3
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Story

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

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.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

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.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

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.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Maggie
  • 10-26-14

History of the Rain

Where does History of the Rain rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I enjoyed this book very much. It went at a good pace, was well read, and the story was engaging.

What did you like best about this story?

The laconic humour which balanced what could have been written as a very sad humour, and yet there was love and light in it all the way through.

Have you listened to any of Jennifer McGrath’s other performances? How does this one compare?

No, haven't heard any other.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Nettlewine
  • 10-13-14

Huge achievement, perfect prose for audio

What did you like most about History of the Rain?

The sheer scale of the achievement in conjuring the environment and characters from the books in the library surrounding Ruth.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Ruth, who was a complex and well-developed character, sensitive and indulgent, but hard as nails in many respects.

What does Jennifer McGrath bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

She seems to have a core understanding of Ruth's attitudes, and brings out the strength of her character very well. A lot of the lyrical prose is delivered in a matter-of-fact way, rather than with too much deference, which I think really helps the story along.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No; it was a joy to bask in the qualities of the prose over an extended period.

Any additional comments?

A really rewarding listen, but it's interesting that there isn't a great deal of drive to the present-day plot, which makes the whole experience somewhat diffuse and meandering. That, however, might be seen as a positive. Occasionally the narrator's differentiation between characters was a little absent, and I do wonder whether the potentially terminally ill Ruth was a bit energetic, but this was an epic task to take on, and may have dragged horribly if there'd been a more weary approach.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Susan
  • 03-13-15

Endless River

Ruth Swain tells her family's story from her sickbed. The story is set in the recent past, Ruth's age is not clear, somewhere around late teens; she lives beside the River Shannon in Faha, County Clare and she is probably going to die.

Her account meanders through the generations of Swains, village life, her father's book collection, salmon fishing, and the endless rain. The writing is poetic and Ruth remains upbeat, but events are mostly depressing and the narrative goes on.........and on............and on. If I had been reading this in book form I may well have given up half way through, unlike Ruth's faithful prospective boyfriend, but in the audio version Jennifer McGrath has a nice Irish accent and so the book flowed over me.

A very beautiful book but not an action thriller, bodice ripper, nor beach read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Marvellous Maud
  • 11-28-17

Directionless and boring

This monologue has no structure and seems to be a play at listing books read and mingling thus with an endless study of the Irish - not entertaining.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Josephine Parker
  • 07-01-16

A book to keep going with, the imagery of individuals was beautiful

Wonderful soothing voice and I became absorbed into the world and characters. Excellent descriptions of local people everyone can relate to.
Emotive and beautiful.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jan
  • 09-25-15

Speaks to my soul

A book about family, love, loss, grief, literature and Ireland. I can't recommend it too highly. Wonderful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Kariesa
  • 06-10-15

beautifully written

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

Poetic, evocative, dreamy

What did you like best about this story?

the narrator was excellent and a perfect match for this story

Which scene did you most enjoy?

descriptions of the village and the people

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No - it is a book you want to think about and reflect back on

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • helen
  • 04-28-15

Brilliant

Gripping story, bittersweet.
Enjoyed the narrators voice and pace.
I will most likely listen to it again as there is so much in it.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • David
  • 05-26-15

Washed with a beautiful story

Gentle, strong, humorous, insightful, this was a pleasure to hear/ read! The honesty within the character and the clever plot made common sense and opened the chance for insight into love, life, faith, family and of course.... Death.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • K. S. Lane
  • 04-05-18

Magical.

A beautifully poetic work. Wonderful literary and Irish references. Funny and sad and beautiful. LOVED it.