I've finally finished The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng, another very enjoyable read from Myrmidon Books and unlike The Painted Messiah by Craig Smith this was not a book that I wanted to rush and nor would it be rushed.
Set in Penang in 1939 it recounts life in Malaya during the war but from the Malaysian point of view.
This made for new and different perspectives on a situation I thought I was quite familiar with. Except I'm only really familiar with it from watching Tenko and Bridge Over the River Kwai, so I'm hardly accurately informed.
I had no idea that the local population suffered as much as everyone else when the Japanese invaded and Tan Twan Eng sets up a clever dichotomy with Philip his half Chinese-half English main protagonist who is devoted to Endo-san his Japanese Sensei who trains him in the art of aikido.That's two Senseis in one week here after my read of Kokoro.
For me this was a book of two distinct halves, first half of the book is stunningly gentle and has a quiet depth to it as Philip embraces the Japanese culture whilst also exploring his own Chinese origins.Overarching it all is the British Empire in the shape of his father and the family business. The second half and the invasion is action-packed, torn loyalties are inevitable and be prepared for a lot of action with Nagamitsu swords and honourable exits.
I'm also very grateful to South Africa-based Tan Twan Eng for doing a dovegreyreader asks... for me on his own personal reading and wish him much-deserved success with this his first novel.
Always a writer...
No. I'm an Intellectual Property lawyer, although I knew I would like to become a writer eventually. And if I could support myself doing that, then so much the better. I was also aware that I could write as well -if not better - than some of the rubbish I read as a teenager. This gave me a reason to start writing. But being an Asian, one has to choose a 'proper' career and to my parents, being a writer wasn't it. So, because I was useless at figures I settled on reading law. Now I know my parents were partly right - being a lawyer has helped me be more disciplined in my work habits, and to be precise in my writing.
So many books! I started off with all the usual writers: Enid
Blyton, for example, then quickly moved on to more adult writers like Michener,
Han Suyin, any writer I could find, basically.
Ludlum, Lustbader. But there were some gems - writers like Susan Howatch, Kazuo Ishiguro, LeCarre, Steinbeck. I also started becoming interested in history and so read a lot of history of the East, biographies, Oriental philosophy.
Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children - I keep going back to it. The first time I read it I was stunned by its sheer narrative energy. The book seemed unable to contain its power. I've become a bore by telling everyone I know to read it.
Well, Ishiguro for An Artist of The Floating World. I didn't like his first novel, A Pale View of Hills, or When We Were Orphans. Rushdie as I had mentioned. Andre Brink for his early novels - Rumours of Rain, An Instant in The Wind. I tend not to read any American writers because they all seem to be about academics in universities. Ian McEwan, Alan Hollinghurst, Vikram Seth. Any writer with a non-gimmicky writing style, really.
Anna Karenina by Tolstoy, The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher Koch, Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie, Embers by Sandor Marai, How Novels Work by John Mullan.