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In 1939, 16-year-old Philip - the half-Chinese youngest child of Noel Hutton, head of one of Penang's great trading families - feels alienated from both the British and Chinese communities. He discovers a sense of belonging in his unexpected friendship with Hayato Endo, a Japanese diplomat who rents an island from his father. Philip proudly shows his new friend around his adored island of Penang, and Endo teaches him about Japanese language and culture, and trains him in the art and discipline of aikido. But such knowledge comes at a terrible price. The enigmatic Endo is bound by obligations of his own; and too late, as the Japanese invade Malaya, Philip realises that his sensei - to whom he owes absolute loyalty - is a Japanese spy. Forced into collaborating with the Japanese to safeguard his family and their interests, Philip turns into the ultimate outsider, trusted by none and hated by many. Tormented by his part in events, by deaths he is powerless to prevent, he risks everything to redress his moral balance by working in secret to save as many people as he can from the savagery of the invaders, and in so doing finds out who and what he really is. Driven by the prophetic words of an ancient soothsayer, ?The Gift of Rain? explores the opposing ideas of predestination and self-determination, as Philip traces a perilous and sometimes unclear path through the terrible years of the war. It takes the reader from the final days of the Chinese emperors to the dying era of the British Empire, and through the magical temples, exhilarating cities and forbidding rain forests of Malaya. 'The Gift of Rain' is epic, haunting and unforgettable, richly shot through with themes and ideas, a novel about agonisingly divided loyalties and unbearable loss. But it is also about human courage and - ultimately - about the nature of enduring love.
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This epic first novel involves the life of Philip Arminius Khoo-Hutton-half-British and half-Chinese, who lives on the Malaysian island of Penang prior to World War II. Feeling like an outcast in his aristocratic British family, he befriends an older Japanese diplomat, Endo-san, who teaches him the art of aikido. A sacred bond grows between student and teacher-"next to a parent, a teacher is the most important person in one's life." When war erupts and the Japanese invade Malaya, Philip finds his loyalty divided between his family and Endo-san. In a series of dramatic events, he discovers support from his courageous Chinese past told through his grandfather, a sustaining friendship with a fellow student of aikido name Kon, and a mysterious association with Endo-san that has been playing out for hundreds of years and can only be broken in a ritual of death. Philip's personal drama unfolds against the backdrop of fascinating glimpses into Chinese culture, British imperialism, and the Japanese occupation that eventually claims the lives of everyone around him. Strong characters and page-turning action make this a top pick for historical fiction.-David A. Berona, Plymouth State Univ., NH Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

'An engrossing read, a hugely enjoyable emotional voyage... a very fine exploration of the making of South East Asia from its Second World War traumas to the present. Warmly recommended.' John McRae, author of The Routledge Guide to Modern Writing 'A wonderful book, full of life... should be required reading for many Britons who still, sixty years and more after the fact, fail to understand either the Japanese or the British experience of World War II in Malaya.' Michael Ashkenazi, author of Matsuri: Festivals of a Japanese Town and of Food Culture in Japan 'A book that all Malaysians will be proud of.' Eric Forbes Good Book Guide

This remarkable debut saga of intrigue and akido flashes back to a darkly opulent WWII-era Malaya. Phillip Hutton, 72, lives in serene Penang comfort, occasionally training students as an akido master "teacher of teachers." A visit from Michiko Murakami sends him spiraling back into his past, where he grows up the alienated half-British, half-Chinese son of a wealthy Penang trader in the years before WWII. When Hutton's father and three siblings leave him to run the family company one summer, he befriends a mysterious Japanese neighbor named Mr. Endo. Japan is on the opposing side of the coming war, but Endo paradoxically opts to train Hutton in the ways of aikido, in what both men come to see as the fulfillment of a prophecy that has haunted them for several lifetimes. When the Japanese army invades Malaya, chaos reigns, and Phillip makes a secret, very profitable deal. He cannot, however, offset the costs of his friendship with Endo. Eng's characters are as deep and troubled as the time in which the story takes place, and he draws on a rich palette to create a sprawling portrait of a lesser explored corner of the war. Hutton's first-person narration is measured, believable and enthralling. (May) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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