23 June 2020

Review: The Rain Heron by Robbie Arnott

The Rain Heron by Robbie Arnott book cover
* Copy Courtesy of Text Publishing *

The opening few chapters of The Rain Heron by Australian author Robbie Arnott are absolutely sublime. A seamless blend of fable and fairytale, the reader is introduced to the existence of the mythical rain heron. This story forms Part 0 of this slim novel, and we meet our main character Ren, at the beginning of Part 1.

Ren is an older woman living the life of a recluse on a mountain. She manages to eke out a meagre living and seems happy until she learns soldiers are coming. The location of the mountain or the road trip that follows is never specified, but the descriptions of the changing landscape are so vivid I could almost smell the pine trees.

Part 2 begins on the coast and another extraordinary story emerges. A reverence for living in harmony with the ocean is threatened when an outsider approaches and tries to learn the secrets of the ink fishermen.

The characters in both stories are brought together in a clever way and we resume our interest in the rain heron.

The Rain Heron contains elements of magical realism in an easily digestible format that caught this reader by surprise. It's hard to define, sometimes reading like dystopian, at other times feeling like horror and at all times exquisitely written. It is also mythical, literary and confronting with plenty of tension and some terrific character growth. My only criticism would be the lack of punctuation for dialogue. Fortunately this didn't hamper my enjoyment of the first part of the novel and I was able to follow the dialogue during the rest of the story without too much trouble, but it was a minor distraction.

I've heard The Rain Heron described as an eco-fable and parable and I wholeheartedly agree. I felt a real love of nature in both the mountainous and coastal settings and a clear concern about our environment bubbling along in the background of the story, also falling into the genre of climate-fiction.

The Rain Heron is hard to categorise, difficult to define but easy to love. It is literary fiction at its very best and I found it moving and highly original. And Australian! Robbie Arnott is an author to watch.

Carpe Librum!

My Rating:

P.S. Check out the first few chapters in this FREE extract.

Would you like to comment?

  1. glad you loved this too. I've become a HUGE Arnott fan.

    1. Thanks Brona, this is my first time reading Robbie Arnott but I'm a fan now too :-)

  2. Replies
    1. You're welcome Carole, I wouldn't be surprised if it popped up a few more times in your 'books you loved' list.


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