“When Elsa’s father is killed in a tornado, all she wants is to escape – from New York, her job, her boyfriend – to somewhere new, anonymous, set apart. For some years she has been haunted by a sight once seen from an aeroplane: a tiny, isolated settlement called Thunderstown. Thunderstown has received many a pilgrim, and young Elsa becomes its latest – drawn to this weather-ravaged backwater, this place rendered otherworldly by the superstitions of its denizens. In Thunderstown, they say, the weather can come to life and when Elsa meets Finn Munro, an outcast living in the mountains above the town, she wonders whether she has witnessed just that. For Finn has an incredible secret: he has a thunderstorm inside of him. Not everyone in town wants happiness for Elsa and Finn. As events turn against them, can they weather the tempest – can they survive at all?”
Having read and absolutely loved The Girl With Glass Feet (so much so that it actually inspired me to start Keep Calm and Read a Book – it was my first post) I was so excited to get this book. Unfortunately, it didn’t live entirely up to its self-created hype. Ali Shaw undoubtedly has a beautiful and provocative turn of phrase; mix with that the stunning scenery he creates and the characters he constructs in exquisite detail and you end up with a gorgeously written, verbally luxurious novel. He weaves the same magic here with The Man Who Rained, using a similar double narrative from both Elsa and Daniel’s points of view. Like his first novel, the focus is on the relationship at the heart of the novel. Finn and Elsa are doomed lovers – the outcast and the foreigner – are brought together by chance and stay together with defiance.
The main problem with this novel was the believability factor. Whereas TGWGF was the perfect balance of reality and fantasy, I found Finn and his weather-body simply too hard to imagine. The scene where he is being chased through the streets and beaten by the neighbours, whilst very well written, was just impossible to picture and that’s the battle already lost for me. If I can imagine what’s happening in a scene, then it’s a winner – if not, I get a bit stuck and have to skip over, which leaves a hole in the overall reading experience for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love Ali Shaw; I love the remote worlds he creates (I was impressed that some technology actually made its way into this book) and the wide variety of characters he creates; his imagination for plot lines and scenery is both fascinating and enviable (the birds of sunshine made me swoon). A beautiful read, but it didn’t live up to its predecessor.
Many thanks to Atlantic Books for the review copy.