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Rain - Kirsty Gunn


Published: 1st July 2005
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RRP $19.99

A twelve-year-old girl spends summers at a lake with her parents and little brother. The days are long and hot and while the parents entertain their friends the two children are left alone to play and dream and let the future come down upon them.

This is a story of loss. Of how families come undone. How children grow up. And how by losing the one most dear you find that in the end only a kind of oblivion can comfort you. Exploring the way memory works, remembering both as a child and as an adult looking back on the child, Rain is an attempt to show the dissolving of the past.

The reader is given the experience of remembering, along with the narrator, so that the story is not something told but is more like a dream, unravelling and disappearing while it is being read yet also yielding up each moment as intense, sweet, hypnotic.

A short debut novel with plenty of sparkle and flash but little substance. The New Zealand-born Gunn, a Conde Nast freelancer now living in London, speaks in the voice of Janey, a child entrusted to care for her little brother (nicknamed "Jim Little" by their mother, "because I'll never let you grow") while her parents live in drunken glamour by a lake. That's about all of the plot. Gunn relies on image after image to relate those days of freedom, and sometimes danger, but the effectiveness of the images is split about 50-50. Moreover, the childlike voice is too precious, simultaneously all-knowing and stingy with the small pieces of plot it does leak out. The relationship between Jim Little and Janey, who is seven years his senior, is an unlikely one, both because it is so chummy and because she is so reverent of him. "He shook his head away when I wanted to place my hand on his silky hair, feel how warm it was, how it smelled of sunshine and sand and clean water. 'I'm not a girl.' "He also sounds surprisingly prissy at times, as when the two are fantasizing about what they would like for dinner: "'I imagine some toast,' said Jim Little. 'Perhaps I imagine it. With jam. Perhaps with chocolate spready and jam.'" Some of the weakest writing is about the duo's mother, who is presented as a beautiful chimera who lavishes love on Jim but remains out of reach. "We're their living, heaving seed," Janey laments in one particularly overwrought passage. Still, even if all the writing here were up to the standards of the best sections, like Janey's discussion of how children's books about kids going wild have planted the idea in her head that she and her brother might live outside on the beach permanently, it would still tax one's patience with its coy resistance to presenting anything openly. Like a sun-shower, this is fleeting and leaves no mark. (Kirkus Reviews)

ISBN: 9780571173006
ISBN-10: 0571173004
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 112
Published: 1st July 2005
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.9 x 12.8  x 1.0
Weight (kg): 0.13
Edition Number: 1