The Rain Heron by Robbie Arnott

I am certain that this will be one of my favourite books of 2020. It will be published on 2 June 2020.

‘A farmer lived, but not well.’

In an unnamed country, the children hear about the rain heron, associated with both abundance and destruction.  Landscape and climate provide the setting for this novel: three apparently separate stories set in fields, forested mountains, and the ocean.  A balance with nature undermined and then destroyed by greed, followed by tragedy. 

‘Soldiers have come to the village.’

Somewhere in a country devastated by a coup, Ren lives on the forested slopes.  She survives by hunting and trading and trying to forget.  But soldiers arrive.  They are in search of a myth, of a means of control.  They have heard of the rain heron.  They want to capture it.

‘Men want things.  They hear about something and pretty soon they’re convinced it belongs to them.’

Gradually, the separate stories are drawn together. Ren’s resistance is overcome, Lieutenant Zoë Harkness gets what she is looking for, medic Daniel tries to help.  But this is the beginning of a story not the end.

This is Mr Arnott’s second novel, and I love it.  It is magical, both in scope and execution.  If I try to analyse it, break it into components, explain what works and why, I’ll destroy the magic with logic.  Read it for the beautiful descriptions, the use of language, the possibility that the natural world might survive despite us.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Text Publishing for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. 

Jennifer Cameron-Smith


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