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History of the Rain by Niall Williams

Sarah Broadhurst's view...

Longlisted for The Man Booker Prize 2014.

Very little happens in this story but it doesn’t need to, the important thing is the background to the present. Ruth, suffering from a long-term illness, is reading through her father’s library, the books are all that remain after the family home burnt down. We get lots of literary references but it is her anecdotes about her family and Irish village that make for the beauty of this piece. It is an endearing book beautifully Irish, well constructed with every piece just the right length and weight. There is a gentleness to it, a love of nature and a musical, poetic flow which is enchanting to read. An engaging story with stunning writing.

If you like Niall Williams you might also like to read books by Dermot Bolger, Jennifer Johnston and Simon Mawer.

Who is Sarah Broadhurst

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. In a glorious novel that features books and rivers, and the unlikely combination of salmon-fishing, pole-vaulting, poetry and the pursuit of ‘the Impossible Standard’, Niall Williams takes the reader to an attic room in a farmhouse on fourteen sodden acres in Faha, County Clare, where Ruth Swain lies bed-bound with only the rain on the skylight as animation to her world. As young Ruth recounts her family’s story, her narrative lit up with her love for her golden twin brother Aeney, and her father, a poet in farmer’s clothes, and as she measures the long reach of her grandfather and other forebears, it is a sad, funny, unique tale she tells. Full of humour and poignancy, its voice rhythmic, melodic and distinctive, this is pure joy to read.
~ The Good Book Guide


History of the Rain by Niall Williams

Longlisted for The Man Booker Prize 2014.

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, in the margin between this world and the next, Plain Ruth Swain is in search of her father. To find him, enfolded in the mystery of ancestors, 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 grandfather Abraham, to her father, Virgil - via pole-vaulting, leaping salmon, poetry and the three thousand, nine hundred and fifty eight books piled high beneath the two skylights in her room, beneath the rain. The stories - of her golden twin brother Aeney, their closeness even as he slips away; of their dogged pursuit of the Swains' Impossible Standard and forever falling just short; of the wild, rain-sodden history of fourteen acres of the worst farming land in Ireland - pour forth in Ruthie's still, small, strong, hopeful voice.


The writing is unfailingly resourceful and strong . an eloquent and moving statement of the power of love and the belief that it will triumph in the end -- Barry Unsworth, Guardian

Poweful and moving ... an absorbing and intelligent novel - Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Niall Williams

Niall Williams was born in 1958 and lives in Kiltumper, Ireland, with his wife Christine and their two children. he is the author of a number of novels including Four Letters of Love, which was sold in over twenty countries and an international bestseller.

Photograph: Liam Burke of Press 22

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Book Info

Publication date

12th March 2015


Niall Williams

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Bloomsbury Publishing PLC


368 pages


Literary Fiction
All Shortlists and Winners
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Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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