Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press


by Kirsty Gunn

[An] exquisitely written first novel. . . . [Gunn’s] language is pitch-perfect; on almost every page, she expresses familiar feelings in ways that are unsentimental and entirely original.” –The New York Times Book Review

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 104
  • Publication Date April 15, 1996
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3447-9
  • Dimensions 5" x 7.25"
  • US List Price $11.00

About The Book

The debut of an astonishing new literary talent, Rain proves that its author, Kirsty Gunn, is already a master of her craft. Written in luminous prose and embroidered with sensuous imagery, Rain is an unforgettable novel.

Twelve-year-old Janey and her younger brother, Jim spend summers at a lake with their parents. Ignored for long stretches and then called upon suddenly to mix drinks or receive drunken kisses, the children huddle together in tender, compulsive closeness. Nourished only by their devotion to one another, the two fill their neglected hours exploring the lush, dangerous landscape and protecting each other from the unpredictable moods of the dark adult world that surrounds them.

A haunting, beautifully rendered story that explores the hidden dangers of childhood, Rain has established Kirsty Gunn as one of the most promising and original writers of her generation.

Tags Literary


“A spellbinding first novel.” –Boston Globe

[An] exquisitely written first novel. . . . [Gunn’s] language is pitch-perfect; on almost every page, she expresses familiar feelings in ways that are unsentimental and entirely original.” –The New York Times Book Review

‘small masterpieces do not usually come as readable as this.” –Fay Weldon

“What impresses most is Gunn’s sure evocation of the way children feel and think. . . . Partly because of this finely modulated tone and partly because this book is about loss and haunted by waters, Rain is reminiscent of Norman Maclean’s classic A River Runs Through It.” –The Guardian

“Taut, beautifully written; a fresh look at the volatile world of childhood.” –Edna O’Brien

“It’s a beauty. . . . Gunn tells a story that’s very sad and simple, though her methods are not unsophisticated

. The confidence with which she interweaves the twelve-year-old Janey’s perceptions with those of Janey the fully mature narrator; the expert modulation of a lush, lyrical voice; the precise use of physical detail to suggest psychological states–these are signs of a talent built to last.” –Mirabella

“Part intense reverie, part unbottled confession, this first novel guides the reader through its emotional landscape as certainly as its characters move among the labyrinthine waterways of rural New Zealand.” –The New Yorker

“This short piece is as taut as a violin string and just as finely tuned.” –Booklist

“Its beauty lies in the quality of the writing, which is as clear and sparkling as the expanse of water it describes. . . . It should not be missed.” –Tatler

Rain slips sure footing from us much like the first caresses of an undertow or rip tide; it’s a deadly seduction for the reader–the rapture of the deep Gunn delivers diminishes our fear of drowning until the waters close over us.” –Mark Richard

Rain introduces a new author of undeniable talent.” –The Sunday Times (London)

“In lean yet lyrical prose, Gunn captures the voice and experience of childhood, the charismatic alcoholism of the kids’ mother and the sad resignation of their father. . . . Sensuous water images and descriptions of the lake lend admirable cohesion to a novella that is most harrowing at precisely those moments when its prose is most dispassionate.” –Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Lyrical and exact descriptions worthy of Colette.” –British Vogue

“This is a gem.” –The Evening Standard

“With Rain, [Gunn] has fashioned a truly inexorable little lyric, a convincing fable of lost innocence soaked in scotch and sadness. . . . Gunn is a master.” –The Voice Literary Supplement

“Kirsty Gunn’s . . . poetic, textured prose seduces the reader.” –Harper’s Bazaar

Reading Group Guide

What do the swimming lessons represent to Mr. Phelon?” To Jane?”

What other water imagery can you find in the book?” What is the author trying to convey by using this imagery?

Of her father, the narrator says: “However it had happened”whether it was as simple as his own deep unknowing of her that, as always, bred the lust”his life was shrunk by now up onto dry land.” My father wouldn’t go fishing anymore” (p. 72).” What is she saying here?” Why does Mr. Phelon lose his instinct for the water?

What kind of mother is Mrs. Phelon?” What kind of wife?” Why do think she is the way she is?

“Your father will always be My Boyfriend,” Mrs. Phelon says.” What is the difference between a boyfriend and a husband?

How does Mrs.

Phelon feel about men?” Why do you think she came to feel this way?

What does this book have to say about childhood?” About the way adults treat children?

How does the narrator feel about being a child?” How does she feel about being a girl?

Discuss the following quote: “Children have it in them to bring the ending down.” Perhaps in pieces, a bank crumbling, the look in a parent’s eye, or all at once, the land unjointed and a gap left where grass used grow roots’ (p. 76).” What is the author saying here?” Is she blaming children for their parents’ problems?

What is going on at the beginning of the last chapter?” When did you realize that this was something different than a how-to?

Why do you think this book is called Rain?