Tatiana de Rosnay’s latest novel The Rain Watcher is a beautifully written, emotional, and atmospheric story.
Title: The Rain Watcher
Author: Tatiana de Rosnay
Publication: October 23, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
The beginning of this novel drew me in INSTANTLY – probably because of my absolute love of trees:
“I will start with the tree. Because everything begins, and ends, with the tree. The tree is the tallest one. It was planted way before the others. I’m not sure how old it is, exactly. Perhaps three or four hundred years old. It is ancient and powerful. It has weathered terrible storms, braced against unbridled winds. It is not afraid.
The tree is not like the others. It has its own rhythm. Spring starts later for it, while all the others are already blossoming. Come late April, the new oval leaves sprout slowly, on the top and middle branches only. Otherwise, it looks dead. Gnarled, gray, and withered. It likes to pretend to be dead. That’s how clever it is. Then, suddenly, like a huge explosion, all the buds flourish. The tree triumphs with its pale green crown.”
The Malegarde family arrives in Paris for a family celebration. Linden, a successful photographer, has traveled from America to join his sister and parents in celebrating his father’s 70th birthday. As they begin their celebrations, the River Seine rises at an alarming rate each day, due to unprecedented rainfall. Family relationships are strained as drama unfolds amidst the flooding. Their holiday is certainly not going at all as anticipated. As the flooding worsens and wreaks havoc throughout Paris, complicated family dynamics and secrets come to light. Linden’s experience in present-day Paris conjures vivid memories of his past – often painful and emotional. The suspense of the family drama is perfectly paralleled with the dramatic natural disaster. As the Seine rises beyond its banks, the Malegarde family’s secrets and issues that have been held below surface begin to rise as well – demanding to be dealt with.
The excerpts at the beginning of each chapter (above) add an air of mystery to the already building suspense. Why does everything start with the tree? Whose memories are we reliving? What do they have to do with the present day? She knows what she’s doing…
Tatiana de Rosnay certainly has a distinct style, expertly capturing the setting and atmosphere through vivid descriptions. Although you could describe this as a slow, emotional read, the events unfolded in such a way that kept me constantly wondering and anticipating. She also created realistic and well-developed characters. I just loved Linden as the protagonist! He had such a strong voice throughout the novel, and I felt increasingly connected to him as each part of his past was revealed. The scene with his father – near the end of the novel – had me in TEARS! Not one glistening tear in my eye, but SOBS!
The Rain Watcher highlights how intricately places are connected to memories and emotions. We are transported to the gorgeous, idyllic settings of Paris and Vénozan, which are contrasted with the dark memories attached to those places. It also shows how people are able to survive through challenging times, and accept one another, as well as oneself. And of course, this story is yet another testament to the power of nature. As much as we’d love to be able to control it (or anything else in life…) you just have to accept reality, mitigate the damage, and move on!
This is definitely not a light read, but if you love character-driven, emotional, atmospheric reads, I’d suggest waiting for a rainy day to snuggle up with a blanket, coffee/tea, and this beautiful novel.
Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and Tatiana de Rosnay for a digital Advanced Readers Copy. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.