Book Review: Rain, by Kirsty Gunn




When the rain came it came first as the scent of rain, the grey air stained darker behind the hills. Then when it came down to us it was like thread and needles, piercing the jellyish water with a trillion tiny pricks, the silver threads attaching water to sky.


A small debut novel that’s definitely packing more than a small punch. Told from the perspective of 12 year old Janey Phelon, the reader is taken on a tour of family life, loss and love, as seen through the lens of adolescence as she spends her Summer with her younger brother at the family home by a lake.


Gunn has created a novel that, much like a lake in the rain, changes and undulates the more you try to look at it. All is not what it seems and even the young mind and emotions of Janey can sense it. Something is coming undone in her world, she can see the nostalgia of her father and the destructive habits of her mother, but she has not grown enough to move away from the unconditional love that only a child can hold its parents to. Nor is she entirely innocent of the, sometimes treacherous, emergence into adolescence itself.


The books final conclusion is not unexpected, it is hinted at, threatened, as the reader is taken deeper in the family’s life. The way they live, or don’t live - the caring mother who seems obvious in the opening chapter but is revealed to be something different altogether, the strong father figure who is also uncovered as something far weaker. The all-giving sister who gives too much to the wrong person.


The harsh truth of actions and responsibilities are spelt out in feeling rather than sentences. We are left knowing what will become of this family without needing it to be spelled out.


A sad, knowing book, that is worth your time on a rainy Sunday afternoon.


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Copyright © 2020 Elaine Mead | Coffee&Books

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