The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay

Publication info: Published October 30, 2018 by St. Martin’s Press. Pre-Pub Kindle edition courtesy of NetGalley.

Summary: The novel mostly takes place in Paris, France in the winter of 2017.

Linden Malegarde is traveling to Paris to spend a weekend with his parents and sister, Tilia. His parents are celebrating both his father, Paul’s, seventieth birthday and his parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary. Linden Malegarde is a busy man with a lot on his mind. A well-known photographer, he is scheduled to do an important photo shoot immediately after the weekend gathering. Between emails to his agent and his partner, Sasha, he wonders why his mother, Lauren, has chosen Paris as the family meeting place. He knows his father isn’t particularly fond of the city. Then there was a bothersome email from the hotel in Paris, warning of altered traffic routes due to flooding from the Seine to consider.The Rain Watcher

Paul Malegarde is also well known by a nickname he doesn’t particularly like, “Mr. Treeman”. Paul, a Frenchman by birth, travels around the world saving notable trees. His wife, Lauren, is an American who never quite mastered any language beyond English, despite living in France for many years.

It has been a while since Linden has seen his parents. He is startled to see his father looking older, shrunken and perhaps not entirely well. His mother brushes off his concerns and insists on just having a good time. His sister, Tilia, is doing her best to cope with her slushily drunk husband.

As the river rises and the city reaches a crisis point, so does the Malegarde family. Long-kept secrets bubble up along with the detritus in the Seine, forcing the family members to reveal them.

Comments: The Rain Watcher left me wondering which story the author most wanted to tell. Was it the story of Linden Malegarde, a gay man struggling with his dual-citizenship identity? Was it the story of the recent, tragic floods in Paris? Or was it a novel about trees? The Malegarde family’s trials seemed to be merely the backdrop to all three of these topics.  Any one of these questions could have become a focal point for the book but the four topics seemed to bear equal weight.

The novel moved very slowly, with pages of rumination and background information. The most interesting part of the book for me was the detailed accounting of the flooding in Paris.

3 out of 5 stars, mostly for the quality of the writing and the research that went into writing the book.