Book Review: The Rain Watcher by Tatiana De Rosnay

I tell the story now, once, so that I don’t have to tell it again. I’m not good with words, whether they are spoken or penned. When I’m finished, I will hide this. Somewhere it won’t be found. No one knows. No one will. I’ve never told it. I will write it and not show it. The story will remain on those pages, like a prisoner.

Tatiana De Rosnay returns with a compelling family drama set during the devastating flooding of Paris; as the waters rise the Malegarde family grapples with past offenses and present struggles. Linden, the younger son and now world-renowned photographer is all but estranged from his family following his relocation to Paris from their small village when he was a young man. It is through his lens we see the family, most particularly the strained relationship he has with his father, Paul, which is a result of, mostly, Linden’s homosexuality. As the story moves along we begin to see the different ways each family member reacted to Linden’s coming out and how this reunion serves to begin the healing of old wounds. However, when Linden’s father suffers a stroke, the resolution that is most desired by Linden becomes fraught with uncertainty.

When sleep takes over, Linden’s last thought is not for Sasha, nor for Sequana and her ornamental headband, nor for the rain still drumming outside, but for his father, sleeping in the room below, with his mother; his father, whom he loves but whom he cannot talk to. Something always holds him back. Timidity, apprehension, whatever it is, it means they cannot have proper conversations. They never have had. To make matters worse, Paul is a reserved type, apart from his two favorite topics, trees and David Bowie. Linden wonders if Lauren hadn’t carefully crafted this family weekend with hopes of interaction sprouting between father and son. The uneasy feeling perseveres. What if Paul does not want to know more about his son, who he is, whom he loves?

Rendered silent and almost fully incapacitated by the stroke, Paul is unable to communicate with his family but for the most feeble hand squeeze. However, through a hospital volunteer specializing in communication with stroke victims, Paul is able to instruct Linden to return to their village, to Paul’s beloved orchard, where a mysterious item is hidden. When Linden arrives at his childhood home he is met with a barrage of memories and the distinct sense of a turning point, though we eventually learn that what he finds instead is valuable insight into the most guarded parts of his father’s past and through this: understanding.

Against the urgent backdrop of the catastrophic flooding which mimics the pace of the Malegarde family’s crisis, The Rain Watcher is a tense and stirring reminder of the fragility of life and the importance of being with the ones you love.

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A review copy of this title was provided by St. Martin’s Press

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