“The Rain Watcher” by Tatiana de Rosnay

Genre:           Historical and General FictionThe rain watcher
Publisher:     St. Martin’s Press
Pub. Date:     October 23, 2018

To begin with, let me tell you that the real characters in this family saga are not the characters, but rather Paris itself and the weather.   I read and enjoyed Tatiana de Rosnay’s previous historical novel “Sarah’s Key” which also takes place in Paris but during WWII.   I found her soon to be published novel, “The Rain Watcher” less enjoyable.  The story mostly takes place in the present.  The author’s descriptions of the city in a natural crisis will take your breath away.  Unfortunately, the rest of the plot will not.

In this tearjerker, you will meet a family whose members are filled with pent-up tensions along with secrets (sounds like most families to me).  The adult daughter and son are joining their parents in Paris for their dad’s 70th birthday.  Both offspring suffer from Post Traumatic Stress for different reasons.  The son is gay and was bullied as a child.  At almost 40, he still has not come out to his dad.  The daughter as a teen was in a car accident where she was the sole survivor.  The mother has her own secrets.  The son is a well-known photographer.  The story is narrated in the first person through his photographer’s lens—good descriptive writing.   In a nutshell, the dad has a stroke and the mother gets pneumonia.   Somehow, while taking care of their parents, they all heal as a family.    If only it is this easy in real life.  Not even one shrink makes it into the plot filled with dysfunctional characters.  I didn’t expect to find such a worn out cliché from this talented author.

Now here is the interesting part of the novel and why the book can be marketed as historical fiction:   In between the soap opera, we learn about the evocation of Paris in 1910 when the actual Seine River flooded.  The powerful event is well researched and horrifying.   In “Rain” we read a fictional story that’s set in midst of a real disaster.  The father is now in the hospital.  He cannot communicate but is aware of what is happening as the evacuation begins.   This is the best writing in the book.  The water floods the first floor of the hospital and panic sets in.  The City of Lights is now without electric light.  You will feel the father’s terror as he is moved in a coffin-like sealed casing.  Think of the movie, “The Poseidon Adventure” but in a building filled with sick, helpless people.  Unfortunately, this chapter is not enough to save the novel, with its ceaseless rain, which gives the whole book a dreary feel.  Although much happens, it is still a slow read.  As I said, all in all, this is a story about Parisian weather and not much else.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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