by Niall Williams
“History of the Rain” was written by Irish author Niall Williams and was long-listed for the 2014 Booker prize. Williams is a prolific author, having published eight novels, several plays and screenplays. He has lived most of his life in County Clare, and this novel is situated in that very rainy area of Ireland.
The discussion began by an apology from Christine, who suggested the book, because she felt that it was too typically Irish to appeal to our group. However, surprisingly, most of the group seemed to have actually enjoyed reading it and discovering the life of rural Ireland and the colourful cast of characters living in the village (referred to as a parish) which serves as the backdrop for the story.
There was consensus on the rich and poetic language of the book (present in anything written by an Irish writer).
Christine was especially taken by the humour in the book, despite many elements of sadness, including the illness of the narrator. Others remarked on the presence of water constantly running through the narrative, as well as the other main element – the urge to leap toward the sky as a metaphor for the constant striving by the narrator Ruth’s father (despite being completely unsuited to it) to be a successful farmer. This striving is described as the Impossible Standard by the author. The urge to leap up to the sky represents the entire process that Ruth’s father experiences while doing what he really is meant to do, that is, to write.
Despite its sometimes difficult passages for a non-English speaker, the group agreed that “History of the Rain” was worth reading.