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Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenwan is a delightful read of quiet agony

25th March, 2017

Book review: Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenwan

Delightful? That is probably the wrong title. How can agony be delightful? It isn’t. Nor do you feel all delighted when reading about Ren and Keiko. What could possibly be gleeful about a book that starts with a  murder? There isn’t anything, really. But when you finish that last page, you will exclaim, “What a wonderful read; I want to live through that reading experience again.” Rainbirds is no doubt one of the most promising debuts of 2018.

In brief

The novel might have the premise of a murder mystery but in fact it is an exploration of grief. The story revolves around Ren Ishida whose sister, Keiko, is murdered. Told through a series of flashbacks, we understand his relationship with his sister when she was alive as he struggles to come to terms with his grief. The prose is quiet and ponderous in a way that makes you relieved more than surprised when the secrets that are bottled up are revealed.

Book review: Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenwan

...a novel to get lost in

Rainbirds took me quite by surprise. I was expecting something of a thriller because of the murder involved in the story. But I was engulfed in slow, silent moments; tangled in the thoughts of the characters and complacent to be a part of the mundane daily life of the narrator. Wait, you might think that is so Murakami-ish. That is exactly what I thought too.  Clarissa has a style of her own but with distinct undertones of a Murakami novel – characters that meditate about their past, that delightful paragraphs about the joy of cooking and eating something and the happiness in the generic, mundane activities of the day.


At the end of the novel, I had many questions. I wasn’t satisfied with some aspects that I thought didn’t fit in well with the overall story. Towards the end the plot seemed to be branching out in all directions. BUT.. But I was happy. I was happy to simply let go and savour the wonderful moments I had while making my way through this novel. And to my surprise, I realized that it made me a satisfied reader too. I would be recommending this book to many.

Final Verdict :

I loved this book and I believe this is one of the best releases of 2018. If you love Murakami or slow novels that take you along with them on a slow, swaying ride, this book is the perfect one for you.

Title : Rainbirds
Author : Clarissa Goenawan
Publisher : Soho Press
Publication: 2018
Language : English
Pages : 336
Rating : 4/5

Disclaimer : Much thanks to the author for an ARC of the book. All opinions are my own.

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This Post Has 8 Comments
  1. Def on my radar and oh my heavens saw on her social media that her husband had a serious accident! Def will order a copy and of course thoughts/prayers.

  2. Your pictures and review just make me want to sit down at your breakfast spread and start reading 🙂 I love mysteries and this sounds like a great set-up to explore grief!

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