Munju Ravindra Reviews a Breathtaking Novel of Transformation and Salvation by Stephens Gerard Malone
The History of Rain
Stephens Gerard Malone
Reading Stephens Gerard Malone’s latest novel, The History of Rain,feels akin to sifting through a box of snapshots—one a portrait of a sad man on a grey day; another of a garden exploding in riotous colour; yet another of lovers in the same scene looking towards but not quite seeing each other.
The story meanders through history, starting in 1915 when our protagonist, Rain, is a wounded soldier recovering in a sanatorium in France. It is here that he first discovers the power of gardening to transform the gardener, and of gardens to transform their visitors. It is also where he encounters Lily, the girl whose beguiling mix of defiance and curiosity propels him forward.
While Rain masterfully creates magical gardens in response to (and despite) his love for the ever-out-of-reach Lily, author Malone sows his seeds in the reader’s mind, deftly transforming the grey skies and muddy soils of the war into the lush gardens of post-war Britain and the lurid excesses of Hollywood, as he moves the story through place and time.
This novel grapples with themes of love (requited and not), shame, betrayal and salvation. Malone’s writing is taut, efficient and perfectly on point. I tend to read with an editor’s eye, often wishing for a different word or turn of phrase; but reading this novel I found myself grinning with delight—at the precision of Malone’s word choice; at the comedy in some of his characterization (“her black hair so short and shining it looked like polish upon her skull”); and above all, at the descriptions of the gardens Rain creates as he tries to anchor his beloved Lily’s wandering spirit by painting the world in beauty.
Don’t let this one pass you by. Go. Get it now.