Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Review: The Man who Rained by Ali Shaw

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? 

I read Ali Shaw’s début novel ‘The Girl with Glass Feet’ when it first hit the shelves a couple of years ago, and it broke my heart. So when I discovered the other day that he had a new book out, I had to have it.

Shaw has a trademark lyrical beauty in his work. He blends seamlessly the real and the magical until the magical seems so normal, so natural in amongst the mundanities of the every day world.

In ‘Glass Feet’ it was a girl who was slowly turning to glass, in ‘The Man Who Rained’ it is, among other things, a man who is made of weather. Instead of a heart beat he has thunder, instead of blood he has air in his veins. But Shaw makes it so realistic, so completely believable that I didn’t for a moment doubt him, or put down the book scoffing that this was ridiculous. It just is. And it was beautiful.

His talent with words makes the whole piece utterly breath-taking to read. Even the most normal descriptions come alive in ways I never could have imagined, and it brings the whole book to life in a vivid array of colour in your mind as you read.

There is always a crushing sense of inevitability that stalks his novels, you know that there is trouble lying in wait – a storm cloud just waiting on the horizon to sweep them away. But it is so carefully constructed, so quiet in its menace as he weaves the rest of the plot together around it, that whilst it made my heart beat faster to know that something would go horribly wrong, it was so beautiful to watch at the same time.

Shaw creates beautifully vivid characters, in incredible places. Thunderstown was a skillfull weaving of beauty and charm with the cruelties of people who are faced with something they cannot comprehend or understand.

And the characters are fantastically woven. A blend of so many different facets, completely believable if not always completely likeable, I was eager to see what would happen to them as they came together.

However there is one thing that I seem to be noticing more and more in the finished copies I’m reading these days. Spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, punctuation errors. And if there’s one thing guaranteed to peeve me, it’s those. In a proof copy, fair enough, it’s not finished yet, I can gloss over them. But in a finished I just bought you in a bookstore and you have the indecency to not have an apostrophe in one of your chapter titles??? It just makes me a little mad. As I’ve said before, this sort of thing needs to be caught before final copies are sent out, because it just looks sloppy - or hire me as a proofreader because I obviously have magical eyes. But this is purely a reflection on the publishing, not on Shaw's writing or the quality of the book.

So whilst that did mar the overall feeling after reading a little bit, I still loved this novel. Fans of Simon Van Booy’s work, or those who love a lyrical beauty in their novels will adore this latest offering from Shaw. A quiet triumph of storytelling.

1 comment:

  1. I must have this book. I didn't realise it had come out already. I loved The Girl With The Glass Feet.