x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

The Man Who Rained: Morose metaphors and soppy similes

Ali Shaw's latest novel features dogs made of wind and canaries hatching from sunbeams.

The Man Who Rained
Ali Shaw
Atlantic Books
The Man Who Rained Ali Shaw Atlantic Books Dh85

There’s nothing like bad weather to inspire an array of morose metaphors and soppy similes. The really bad news is that the setting of Ali Shaw’s latest novel in the fictional hamlet of Thunderstown – where dogs made of wind roam its outskirts at night and canaries hatch from sunbeams – provides a fertile breeding ground for frequent examples.

It isn’t that the concept behind the story completely fails. Rather, there’s plenty of scope for a captivating plot in the first few chapters covering Elsa Beletti’s escape from bustling New York City for the peaceful, if eerie, calm of Thunderstown. Grieving for her recently deceased father, the last thing Elsa needs is more chaos. Instead, she runs into Finn Munro, a man with a storm inside him. Literally.

As it also turns out, their star-crossed romance is where Shaw’s otherwise competent storytelling falls short. Ironically, the tempestuous ballad of Finn and Elsa lacks the spark which should have come as prerequisite of writing about a man who oozes thunder on a bad day. Though it has its inspiring moments, the novel as a whole hardly makes for compelling reading.