REVIEW by Sophie Long24/05/2012
The Man Who Rained
by Ali Shaw The Man Who Rained
is a rare beast of a novel that manages to interweave descriptive scenes with action without becoming dull. Long passages of description are akin to kryptonite for the average creative writing student, but from the very first page, adjectives pepper Costa nominee Shaw’s prose in a rather refreshing manner. Indeed, to write the story any other way would not do quite as much justice to the fairy-tale location of Thunderstown in which both men and animals can be made of clouds, thunder or sunlight.
Despite Shaw’s descriptive tendencies, the story moves fast and frustratingly so. Going from Elsa’s arrival, meeting Finn, falling in love and then tumbling head first into the ending, which is resolved in one chapter, the narrative never really allows the characters space to breathe or show much of their inner life. Of course traditional fairy tales do tend to move in a rushed sequence of events that aren’t always explained, but when this happens in a modern novel the reader can get left behind, wondering what is going on and why.
Elsa, for example, has very few moments that reveal her inner life and therefore her words and actions can tend to come a little out of the blue. In an encounter with Finn, Elsa suddenly becomes scared and leaves where previously she had been perfectly at ease. The action is not really explained afterwards and we cannot make a judgement based on what we know of Elsa as she reveals so little of herself. On the other hand, the seemingly peripheral figure or Daniel Fossiter is altogether more complex and intriguing. Daniel is caught between his traditional role of huntsman and the modern technology that threatens his livelihood, but also the conflict between the teachings of his grandfather and his own contradictory beliefs and desires. He is opened up to the reader in a way that Elsa never is.
The eponymous ‘man who rains’, Finn Munro, is fairly mysterious as none of the story is told from his perspective, but his unusual physical form is mostly ignored but for the initial revelation that he is ‘made of weather’ and during the conflict at the end. He does not spontaneously spark lightning or rumble with thunder, but these things occur as a result of his emotional state, giving the reader some hint as to his inner life and also making his character a little more plausible.
The Man Who Rained
can be vague and confusing in its plot and characters, but it is also a daring attempt at a modern fairy tale. Ali Shaw has succeeded in creating a world that surprises and subverts expectations, but one that is plausible enough that you feel you could jump on a plane and visit.
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