Tuesday, 25 September 2018

The Man Who Rained

After enjoying 'The Girl with Glass Feet' so much I found Ali Shaw's second novel 'The Man Who Rained'. It is about Elsa, and Finn, mostly, both of whom have a strong connection to storms; Elsa because he father was a storm chaser, and Finn because he is a storm. We first meet him as he is dissolving into the air, called back to solid form by Elsa's intervention.

The story is set, similarly to Girl with Glass Feet, in a remote and isolated island community. There is both serious religion and a whole bunch of weird superstitions swimming around within the community, making them suspicious of outsiders and afraid of random animals, and creating a rather claustrophobic and occasionally threatening atmosphere. I liked it because it had the same magical realism blended into the tale; most of the residents are afraid of the things they do not understand but Elsa is curious and finds her landlord Kenneth and an elderly nun Dot who help her make sense of the history of Thunderstown. There is a bit of a theme running through the story of missing mothers and men who struggle with their sense of identity. There is also a bit of a power play going on between the influential men in the town, and it fuels the onset of the final crisis. Like with the tiny winged cows in Girl with Glass Feet I felt again that some of the magical aspects were extraneous to the actual story and were just there because the author is enjoying the process of creating the feeling of the story, and I just allowed myself to enjoy them too. I like the development of the bond between Elsa and Finn, it was believable and coherent, but I'm sorry, the ending was just plain creepy and it spoiled the story for me. As a result I did not like the book as much. Having said that his third book 'The Trees' looked excellent and is definitely on the waiting list.

Here are Finn and Elsa bonding:

"'Now,' he whispered, 'hold out your hands.'
She did so, wondering if he was going to take hold of them. Instead he produced from his good pocket a sachet of seeds, and placed one fat grain in her palms. Then they waited. A canary bustled through the treetops, springing and zipping from branch to branch, getting closer in stops and starts. It paused for a while on the twigs above Finn's head, leaning its head left and right, its eyes swivelling hard at Elsa. She smiled at it, in case that would help.
Then it flicked wide its yellow wings and whirred down to perch on her hands. She felt the pin-tip of its beak tapping against her skin as it gobbled up the seed.
'Catch it,' whispered Finn.
Nervously - it felt wrong to touch a wild creature - she slid her free hand over the canary and cupped it to trap the bird in her hold. It burbled at her furiously, and she yelped when its wings whirred and tickled her skin. Still she kept it trapped, and then she felt a change come over it.
'Finn ... something's happening!'
'Don't worry. It can't hurt you.'
The canary had stopped struggling. It crouched still, virtually weightless in her hands. It was getting hot - not just with the compact warmth from its small heart and muscles, but with the penetrative warmth of a summer afternoon. And not around her hands a dim light glowed, getting brighter as she watched it, until golden shafts shone through the cracks between her fingers.
Some fearful switch tripped inside of her and she let go of the canary with a start. but her hands were empty and the bird had vanished, as had the light she had been holding, gone in a yellow shimmer of air. The only evidence that remained was the warmth in her palms, as if she had been holding them to a campfire." (p90-91)

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