Official Synopsis from Goodreads: The first new novel in four years from the beloved superstar author of Sarah’s Key, a heartbreaking and uplifting story of family secrets and devastating disaster, in the tradition of THE NEST.
The Rain Watcher is a powerful family drama set in Paris as the Malegarde family gathers to celebrate the father’s 70th birthday. Their hidden fears and secrets are slowly unraveled as the City of Light undergoes a stunning natural disaster. Seen through the eyes of charismatic photographer Linden Malegarde, the youngest son, all members of the family will have to fight to keep their unity against tragic circumstances.
In this profound and intense novel of love and redemption, De Rosnay demonstrates all of her writer’s skills both as an incredible storyteller but also as a soul seeker.
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Setting: Modern day Paris
***I received an eARC copy of The Rain Watcher from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, via NetGalley***
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Review: A quiet, contemplative book that was totally different than expected. The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay is a book that I think a lot of readers will love, and a lot of readers will dislike. It’s a slow, character-driven read that doesn’t have a lot of plot, but instead is contemplative and is more of a family drama without the drama. This type of read will not appeal to all readers, but those that enjoy this style of book I think will really enjoy this.
The Rain Watcher is set in modern-day Paris at the start of an epic rainstorm that floods the city. I must admit that prior to reading this book I had no idea that Paris had flooding issues. There is lots of focus on the Zouave statue in Paris that helps judge the flood levels, and it was quite interesting to read about the different levels of flooding and to learn about this. This particular flood was, I think, either on par with, or worse than the big Paris flood of 1910, an event that I was absolutely clueless about until I read this novel.
The story is told primarily by Linden Malegarde, a thirty-six year-old gay man who lives in San Francisco, but journeys to Paris for a weekend with his parents and his sister. Linden is a famous photographer, and there is some information here about photography. I found these sections interesting, and not bogged down with too many technical details about photography. Linden’s parents, Paul and Lauren, both have health issues while in Paris, and the story is really one about Linden’s relationship with his father, who seems to only be passionate about trees. The reason for his love of trees is told, and I found these sections of flashbacks to young Paul to be out of place. I didn’t think they were necessary, and they didn’t fit the flow of the rain and the disaster Paris was undergoing in the rest of the book.
A lot of the book is about dealing with disaster and trauma, as Paris undergoes the natural disaster of flooding, and Linden’s sister, Tilia has to deal with being the sole survivor of a horrific car crash that killed many of her friends. Tilia’s past, Paris’s present, and Linden’s future all come to a head at this family weekend, and the book really explores all of the relationships and events that have affected the family.
As Linden is a photographer, he of course goes out and photographs Paris during the disaster. I found these scenes to be memorable and true. I can’t speak for flooding, but I’m familiar with being around a natural disaster due to the Tubbs Fire from last October, and I feel Tatiana de Rosnay gets the scenes right as she writes about Linden’s tour of the city during the floods and the quiet the city experiences. These scenes brought tears to my eyes as they felt so raw and emotional, and I was reliving my experiences through those scenes.
Because this book was such a slow, contemplative read, I am not sure how well it will be received. Quiet, character-based reads are not for everyone, and I was expecting a much different read going in, more along the lines of Sarah’s Key. There was something quietly beautiful about this read that I liked, but I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more plot and action to this. I can’t say that I was bored, as it was just such a different read, and I know I’ll remember this book, but be aware going in that this is more of a contemplative read.
Bottom Line: A quiet, contemplative read that focuses on the characters.