The Rain Heron

A stunning, dystopian eco-fable of survival and love

Release Date
Jan 01, 2020
Author
Robbie Arnott
Goodreads rating
4.17
Genre
Literary Fiction, Magical Realism
Page Count
272

 

The Rain Heron  is a daring book that invites you to think about nature and our place amongst it.

Cover

Inviting, like a cold ocean on a hot summer’s day. Its watery, evocative pattern of blue creates swirls and ripples that look otherworldly. I enjoy the band of rope-like feathers that intertwine much like the characters in the story.

Prose

How pleasant this reading is. Author Robbie Arnott’s prose melts into poetry and the book becomes equal parts fairytale and novel.

From the opening line “a farmer lived, but not well” you know this is going to be a gut-punching story.

The writing changes throughout. Firstly (and then a little later on), we encounter a true-to-form fable that feels like a ‘tale as old as time’. Heading into the main guts of the story, Arnott switches to more novel-esque prose; yet retains that sense of magic and mystery throughout. The description of nature leaps off each page and I felt like I was there myself. From animals to storms, the imagery is vivid and a delight. 

While the story takes place in a country we’ve never heard of, it’s clear that Arnott has taken inspiration from his home in Tasmania. Eucalyptus trees and mammals evoke the Apple Isle.

The Rain Heron’s fable-esque tones remind me of one of my favourite books, Circe.

Characters

I loved spending time with Ren and understanding her struggles against the before and after of her world. I wanted to know more! I felt like we had much more development of Harker’s character which was fabulous — I think my favourite part was discovering her childhood. And alas, as a lover of nature, I wanted more of the rain heron; to understand this creature and its characteristics. But, I guess a myth is a myth is a myth!

Plot

Ren has been forced to reckon with her ability to survive in wild mountains. Her country is in the midst of a coup and her life before the mountains is becoming a distant memory. Soldiers encroach on the freedom she is desperately clinging to as she hunts and trades her way through each day.

When a young soldier Harker traps Ren into capturing a mythical bird — the Rain Heron — Ren’s very existence is on the line.

It’s now game on, as the two women grapple over the power of untamed nature and its place in our world, with this magical, beautiful bird sitting as a symbol at the centre of it all. 

Ending

A little neat, but I still enjoyed it nonetheless. I guess it’s close to a fairytale ending, with a moral to the story in there too?

Thoughts

Reading this book can be deceptive.

Its cover is beautiful; the introductory fairytale imbued with magic. Yet, this unassuming book carries a dark but powerful message about environmental and political upheaval, and man’s greed which leads to destruction at all costs.

There is war in this book. And its opponents are many.

We can’t ever own nature, as much as we try. Such is the undercurrent to Ren and Harker’s struggles with each other and the rain heron.

I loved the various parts to the story, which jump around in time to give us the stories of the two women’s worlds. Much like the first part of the book, where we meet the rain heron, Harker’s story of her childhood reads like a fable and it’s a stunning, magical realism journey that could be a standalone story.

Arnott’s writing is fresh — and at times you’ll feel precariously balanced within the story, unsure of your footing. But trust in the writing and you’ll soon see that what some might see as disorienting is, in fact, the beauty of this clever author. He tells a tale soaked in mysterious energy, much like his beautiful bird. I just wish we’d had more time with this winged creature.

The Rain Heron is a truly original book.

 

The Rain Heron
Cover
Prose
Characters
Plot
Ending
Stunning imagery
A dystopian fairytale
Like a bushwalk through nature
The ending's a little neat, but I'm grasping at straws here!
4.2
A colourful, curated blend of books, wine and creativity, with a soft spot for Australian work and female-centric narratives.


Fable and Fizz would like to acknowledge the Whadjuck Noongar people as the traditional owners and continual custodians on the lands and waters this content is primarily written on. I pay respects to their Elders — past and present. This always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.
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