Saturday, October 5, 2019

The Rain Watcher

Title:  The Rain Watcher
Author:  Tatiana de Rosnay
Publication Information:  St. Martin's Press. 2018. 240 pages.
ISBN:  1250200016 / 978-1250200013

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "I will start with the tree."

Favorite Quote:  "... how come  his own mother had never noticed? The answer was clear, then. It was because she had never wanted to see it."

A family with secrets and history. A father whose passion is trees. A mother who marries in a whirlwind romance and then has a lifetime of secrets. A son who has yet to feel comfortable in his own skin, particularly around his family. A daughter with a dysfunctional marriage and a past buried in guilt. A beautiful city about to drown as the river floods. A few days time but a lifetime of memories and history.

This is the background of The Rain Watcher set in Paris as a family comes together to celebrate the father's birthday. As you might suspect, this is cause of reflection and conversations and history and perhaps a reckoning. You might expect this to be a powerful novel of strong emotions about a city, about family, about love and about acceptance.

Except that it is really not. Even now, I am not really sure what the point of the book really is. There are so many story lines opened and questions asked. None of them really go anywhere. Affairs. Accidents. Survivor's guilt. Abuse. Sexual identity. Parent-child bond. Marriage. Infidelity. Family expectations. Suicide. All of these familial ties wind back and forth through time and the history of this family; it is easy to get lost. All are set within the impending doom of the Seine flooding except that there is never a climactic culmination to that sense of anticipation.

An interesting naturalist note in the book. Paul Linden - the father - is a world renowned tree expert. The trees are his passion. You might even say the trees are his life. The how and the whys of this are never really explained except that the point is made that this passion seems to exclude pretty much everything else in his life. His two children are named Tilia and Linden. Tilia is a group of about 30 species of trees native to the Northern Hemisphere. Linden is the name given to the European varieties of that tree. Coincidence? Probably not, but then again not explained in the book.

The message I walk away with from this book is that children, no matter how old they get and no matter how successful they become in other parts of their lives, still seek and need their parents' approval. That approval may never come. Logically, the child (even adult children) may realize that it may never come, but the need for it never really goes away. A sad and emotional reality that unfortunately does not quite take center stage in this book. The stories are opened and the questions are asked. However, they don't really go anywhere. Perhaps, there is a greater metaphorical point to be made in that structure. Unfortunately, I don't get it.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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