"Why did "just the four of us" sound both so cozy and ominous?" from The Rain Watcher by Tatiana De Rosnay.
On the surface, it was a celebratory family gathering. The patriarch of the Malegarde family, Paul, was turning seventy; he and his wife Lauren had achieved 40 years of marriage. Their children Linden and Tilia were joining them in Paris, France.
Except...heavy continual rains had the Seine rising to a record flood stage. Paul, a world famous arborist, suffers a stroke while his wife falls ill. Their daughter Tilia still struggles with PTSD from a horrendous accident that killed her best friends and left her with a limp after reconstructive surgery. She is in a failed marriage to a drunk. Her daughter Mistral is her one bright happiness. And Linden, a world famous photographer, left home at age sixteen and can't tell his father he is engaged to another man.
Each character has their secret pain which they must face during this devastating reunion, and which is revealed to each other by the end of the story, showing their growth and resilience.
Linden has to keep the family afloat, visiting his father in the hospital while Tilia tends to their mother. He explores the flooded streets with his professional peer Oriel, camera in hand. As he revisits places from his past, all the pain and regret returns to overwhelm him in a flood of memories. The apartment were he lived with his beloved aunt. Places where he spent happy hours with his first lover before they were brutally torn apart.
Nature's destructive force is a constant presence in the novel, the rain and cold, people fleeing Paris and those who stay in cold and lightless apartments, all impotent to stop the advancing water.
And yet it was also nature, in the form of a lime tree, that saved the child Paul, informing all his choices and activities throughout his life, and giving his children their names.
The novel is a love song to Paris, and for those who know the city will feel agony as the floods overwhelm. The city has faced recent flooding, the worse in fifty years.
For all the emotional and natural chaos going on in the novel, I felt distant, the events not affecting me as strongly as I would have thought. I realized that the narrator tells readers what is happening when I would have liked scenes played out in action and dialogue. Readers are being told a story, a quite good story, much of which takes place in the internal lives of the characters. I liked the characters very much.
I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
The author's previous books include the bestselling Sarah's Key and an excellent biography on Daphne Du Maurier, Manderley Forever.
The Rain Watcher
by Tatiana De Rosnay
St. Martin's Press
Publication October 23, 2018
PRICE $27.99 (USD)