History of the Rain – Niall Williams

I loved this book with Ruth’s slowly unfolding memoir of her dad, peppered with literary allusions and set in the context of her own potentially terminal illness and then, again, set against a background of rural Ireland and a slow crawl towards modernisation.

It could very easily have got too clever but it didn’t, or been too cynical about the rural community and it avoided that, while maintaining an extended watery metaphor; the sea, the river and the rain.

It reminded me of my own dad, his ‘awkward reverence’ (Church Going, Larkin Collected Poems, 1988), the slow, methodical way he perused volumes of poetry finding the odd snatches of answers to the clues in his Nemo’s Almanac (Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 1898). He wrote poetry too but could never find his way into the intimacy of words choosing instead the witty riposte or the pastiche – maybe like Ruthie’s father he could never be quite good enough.

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