Monday, 2 July 2018

Book Review: Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan


Clarissa Goenawan is an Indonesian-born Singaporean author who won the prestigious Bath Novel Award for unpublished and self-published novelists for her novel Rainbirds, which—some two years later—is now seeing the light of day.


This dark, spell-binding book is set in 1990s Japan. In the small, fictional town of Akakawa, it follows a young man’s path to self-discovery in the wake of his sister’s murder. The story is about grief and the lengths we will go through to resolve it, it is told in the present with seamless flashbacks and it conveyed the grief of the protagonist. 

The concept of the book is really interesting but I always found myself wanting more from every plot twist and every interaction. The book left me feeling more frustrated than fulfilled. The characters are always being too formal and too polite with each other and the interactions between the characters seem so rigid and awkward. I'm glad that this book is a quick read, and isn't much of a time consuming.

I’m a big fan of Japanese literature – I enjoyed and loved Haruki Murakami and Yukio Mishima's books so much. So I was really excited to read Clarissa Goenawan’s debut novel, particularly upon reading that it had a Murakami-style aesthetic! Unfortunately, I found this book is lack of originality and there's too much Murakami's influence in the novel that it makes the novel seems pretentious and doesn't have its own voice, distinctive characters and intriguing story to tell, The main character, Ren has literally no personality. He was so boring, uninteresting and sounded more feminine than masculine. There were times that I had to remind myself that the main character was a male narrator.

The thing that I liked the most about this novel was probably Ren's dream about the goldfish.

"The flying goldfish danced above us, sweeping their translucent glittering tails while avoiding the balls of water. I was dazzled. They looked so elegant. Suddenly, the goldfish charged at the bubbles, bursting them. Cold water splashed everywhere, and a bright light flashed from the distance. I shielded my eyes with my hands. Squinting, I remembered the little girl and looked for her, but she’d run off."

I have mixed feelings about Rainbirds for a few reasons. There were few things that I enjoyed and liked about this book. The premise was interesting and some of the characters are likeable but there were a lot of things in the book that just didn't resonate with me at all and I guess this book is definitely not for me. Overall, I give this book 2.8 out of 5 stars. My review is subjective and I really hope it doesn't discourage others from discovering the merits of this book for themselves. I also would love to thank Pansing for giving me the opportunity to read and review this novel. 

Thank you for reading my review! ♡