A natural history of rain, told through a lyrical blend of science, cultural history, and human drama.
It is elemental, mysterious, precious, destructive. It is the subject of countless poems and paintings; the top of the weather report; the source of all the world's water. Yet this is the first audiobook to tell the story of rain.
Cynthia Barnett's Rain begins four billion years ago with the torrents that filled the oceans, and builds to the storms of climate change. It weaves together science - the true shape of a raindrop, the mysteries of colored rains - with the human story of our attempts to control rain, from ancient rain dances to the 2,203 miles of levees that attempt to straitjacket the Mississippi River. It offers a glimpse of our "founding forecaster," Thomas Jefferson, who measured every drizzle long before modern meteorology. Two centuries later, rainy skies would help inspire Morrissey's mopes and Kurt Cobain's grunge. Rain is also a travelogue, taking listeners to Scotland to tell the surprising story of the mackintosh raincoat, and to India, where villagers extract the scent of rain from the monsoon-drenched earth and turn it into perfume.
Now, after thousands of years spent praying for rain or worshiping it; burning witches at the stake to stop rain or sacrificing small children to bring it; mocking rain with irrigated agriculture and cities built in floodplains; even trying to blast rain out of the sky with mortars meant for war, humanity has finally managed to change the rain. Only not in ways we intended. As climate change upends rainfall patterns and unleashes increasingly severe storms and drought, Barnett shows rain to be a unifying force in a fractured world. Too much and not nearly enough, rain is a conversation we share, and this is an audiobook for everyone who has ever experienced it.
So I really enjoyed listening to this, and found it multi-faceted and very conversational in tone. I'm not the biggest fan of the reader's voice, but the thing that kept startling me a bit was what sounded like audio "inserted" words that were either in a different language or just a bit more difficult (like names). It sounded like they were recorded at a different time and then spliced into the narrative. However, this wouldn't keep me from listening to it again.
If you could sum up Rain in three words, what would they be?
One of the best books I have listen to. Both in writing and narrator voice,
What did you like best about this story?
They way she explained water throughout history and the importance and the fact we have always taken advantage of
What does Christina Traister bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
I am not sure
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
As a treat at almost finishing the book she traveled to a rain forest that is know to be the wettest place on either.
I love the idea of capturing the history of rain in a book. Barnett will show you how rain related to the burning of witches, the invention of umbrellas and raincoats, and how it affects poets and songwriters. She details how the devastating effects of too much or too little rain paved the way for charlatans, whose extortions were far more severe that I thought.
When I bought this book, I had hoped it would include a lot more about the scientific history of rain. Barnett began the book with how rain came to fill the crevices of Earth. I had hoped I would read more details about that as well as hear the delicious science behind flooding, the dustbowl, and other weather related phenomenon. I love the water cycle. It's magical. So, even though the title Rain: A Natural and Cultural History is taken, I really really hope someone writes a book called Rain: A Natural History that focuses more on the science behind rain, especially how it relates to ecology. There is a wonderful lecture series called the Ecological Planet by John Kricher that will make you fall in love with the science of rain.
That is not to say I didn't enjoy the cultural history in this book. It was great. But I needed more of the natural part to really love it.
I listened to some of the book while on a long drive with my teenage son. when I turned it off, he asked for more of the stories I had been playing. I thought that was a good recommendation.
Would you consider the audio edition of Rain to be better than the print version?
Since I haven't read the print edition I won't comment on that. But the audiobook was a good soothing book, and coupled with the surprise rains in South India at this time of the year, it was my go-to book.
Did Christina Traister do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?
Christina Traister did a good job of narration overall. However, this was so jarring, I feel I've to bring this up. This book covers quite a bit of Indian mythology, history, and travel writing,; since India's lifeblood is the monsoon. But Traister's pronunciation of Indian names, whether they be of places or gods, or what have you is atrocious. While obvious effort has been made in getting the French pronunciation right, she even pulls of a good English and Scots accent in some parts, this neglect of comical pronunciation of Indian names sticks out like a sore thumb. I think the production team should have run this through an expert, or heck, anybody with some familiarity with India before producing this book.
This book is probably best read as a series of magazine articles. Information is repeated; travelogue bits don't seem to fit; political commentary feels forced. However, many of the articles contain interesting information such as shipwreck salvager's impact on weather forecasting and distilling the scent o rain.
The narrator comes across as condescending and the editors seem to have (poorly) inserted re-recordings of foreign words that were perhaps spoken incorrectly during the original taping.
This was a well narrated casual listen on rain, raincoats and some other stuff I cannot now remember. As you can tell, not much stuck. But I still enjoyed the book.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to Rain again? Why?
Totally! Great narration with a litany of stories from a wide range of subjects! From the science of rain, its contribution to our planets (and a few other planets) history, to tales of pseudoscience, witchhunts, rainmakers, cultural flood legends across history, to cool info on climate change and its cultural impact....... and a lot more
Who was your favorite character and why?
King James! (of the "King James Bible" fame). I never knew he initiated a witch hunt leaving thousands dead after a series of rainstorms delayed his bride to be at sea. He became mad with paranoia over witches, satan, and the storms they sent (and in doing so inspired Shakesphere to write MacBeth)
Which character – as performed by Christina Traister – was your favorite?
Her performance of the chapters when she read in the first person (as the author) she seemed to step into character rather well.
The chapters where she was essentially a science and history teacher, she had a good range of tone and inflection, keeping the read interesting.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
The different kinds of peculiar rains made me laugh, like an actual 'Frog Rain", just like the biblical curses of exodus.....
Rick Perry praying for rain and making a fool of himself was pretty funny too.
Any additional comments?
Great book, rather like unweaving a rainbow, I see rain differently now.
What disappointed you about Rain?
About half the book is just random historical anecdotes about rain that don't really have any cohesion or relevance the the rest of the book. It feels like the author accumulated random bits of information off the internet and just tossed it on to a page. The rest is somewhat interesting but shallow, it feels like a lot of good information was left out because the author didn't really have a proper objective when writing.
Would you ever listen to anything by Cynthia Barnett again?
No, she honestly is just not good at this at all.
You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?
The good parts were where she properly elaborated on certain parts of history, especially the settlement of the American midwest, as well as modern attempts at controlling and adapting to weather. But even those parts were really lacking.
Any additional comments?
She also spends a considerable amount of time in the book talking about her travels during her "research". What for? For bragging rights and to throw more pointless anecdotes your way of course! She honestly sounds more like some hipster who is way overestimating her own intelligence, the kind of person who likes the idea of being a writer or "activist" more than actually producing something of value.
0 of 3 people found this review helpful