I adored this book as much as Sebastian Faulks’s recent novel Paris Echo! Now I’m ashamed to admit that this is the first time I read one of Tatiana de Rosnay’s novels too. I’m yet to read her renown novel Sarah’s Key – so I guess this will serve as another reminder that I haven’t even made a dent in my TBR stacks! 😀
Anyway, moving on…
We meet Linden Malegarde, a thirty-something famed photographer, as he arrives in Paris for an intimate family gathering. The weekend will mark the 40th wedding anniversary of Linden’s parents, Paul and Lauren, and adding to the celebrations, Paul, a prominent arborist will also be turning 70. This will be the first time Lauren gets to have her grownup children to herself without their loved ones – Linden has left Sacha, his partner in San Francisco, and Tilia, Linden’s elder sister, has left her child and drunkard husband back in London. So Lauren, who thinks this will be the perfect opportunity for them to reconnect and put behind their rifts, has arranged this reunion without realizing that Mother Nature has different plans for them.
The incessant downpour in Paris turns the Malegardes’ festive weekend into a disastrous event. As River Seine keeps rising, the city slowly begins to shut down bracing itself for imminent flooding. The authorities even warn tourists to leave Paris, but when Paul gets hospitalized after a stroke, and Lauren falls ill with pneumonia, the family finds themselves confined in the city, forcing them to come to terms with secrets they have been harboring and work through their regrets.
Just like Paris Echo, The Rain Watcher is pretty much a character-driven novel. For the most part, the story is told from Linden’s perspective. And the most compelling aspect of the novel for me was how de Rosnay delves into the complicated relationship Linden has with his parents given the way Lauren reacted to the news of Linden being gay. With the increase in the number of countries recognizing marriage equality and the awareness people have about LGBT rights nowadays, I think/ hope most parents would handle their child coming out of the closet much better than Lauren did. However, I appreciated how de Rosnay handled Lauren’s side of the story with sensitivity considering that LGBT rights weren’t as ‘progressed’ as today at the time Linden came out. The way de Rosnay portrays Lauren aroused empathy in me, and just like Linden, I later realized that Lauren’s initial reaction was a result of cluelessness than bigotry on her side.
As he takes Lauren into his arms, hugging her close, Linden realizes it never occurred to him that his mother could be criticized because of her son’s homosexuality. It seems unexpected and unfair that she, too, would have to go down that dark road of intolerance, of rejection. Her words ephemerally resuscitate the suffering of his own journey toward self-acceptance, the rebellion against the shame others had persisted in sustaining around him.
This terrific novel is incredibly introspective. However, other than dealing with the family drama, de Rosnay also cleverly integrates Seine flooding into the plot, which unfortunately feels like a frequent occurrence now. She presents a very palpable feeling of what life is like for Parisians during these floods. I could feel myself being drenched in Paris, breathing in its nauseating foul-smelling air. So this is great stuff! 4 stars.
Note: Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press for sending me a review copy of The Rain Watcher.