The Gift of Rain (Part 2 – Etc.)

TheGiftOfRainThe Gift of Rain
by Tan Twan Eng (Malaysian)
2007 / 432 pages
Rating 9 / historical  fiction

** THIS PAGE IS FULL OF SPOILERS – NOTES – PHOTOS – ETC.  You can probably scroll through to view the photos only if you don’t like spoilers. –

BACK TO REVIEW >>>>                       NOTES  PART I>>>>

Themes – levels of memory,  fate vs free will,   loyalty,  love, repeating lives, “everything is connected,”  secrets,

Motifs or possibly symbolism – butterflies, fireflies, aikijujutsu, knives and cameras, names, “face,”

Characters:  –  see the Great Wiki –

General History – Japanese in Malaysia

Maps – the ones in the book are excellent but 1.  where is all this?  Penang is a very small island off west coast of  the Malay Peninsula north of Singapore.

Gift of Rain Trail in Penang etc. 


Interview with Eng:

Narrative – much sensual detail – sights,  smells, sounds, tastes, textures
and also emotional detail –  both loud and subtle –



Prince of Wales bombed 1941

Part 2 opens with the war in very early progress,  William is killed, grandfather leaves and the servants are moving out.

Chapter 2
troops are moving down the Malay peninsula and fliers are dropped from planes.  Philip and his father arrive home one day to find that the Kempeitai,  Japanese Secret Police, have arrived in the person of Goro and an official.   Isabel grabs the rifle and shoots the wall again.  They leave but the family is in grave danger now.


Kempeitai, Sōchō – Japanese Secret Service, WWII

Philip goes to see Endo at the Consulate and joins the Japanese as they have been wanting him to.  He’s got the language and culture to help the occupation.

Chapter 3
Isabel changes her appearance and leaves.  MacAllister tells them that many refugees from northern Malay  Peninsula are arriving.  Noel Hutton (Philip’s father) completely refuses to leave.  The attitude toward the Japanese has changed to accept a racist enemy attitude.

Isabel, with hair cut and in William’s clothing, leaves for Penang Hill,  the female staff leave with her.  Father (Noel Hutton) refuses to leave.  Refugees from the northern Malay peninsula continue to flock to Penang according to Peter,  Isabel’s finance.  And the Chinese and English are joining them. The bombing starts.  Philip sneaks up to the Japanese house on Penang Hill then goes with his father to the demolished empty town.


Hirohito – 1945 cover of Time Magazine

Although he is “officially”  a Japanese ally, Philip destroys documents which might help the Japanese. Very conflicted.

The British have been ordered to leave on the last ships but told not to tell anyone.  They mostly do – but not the Huttons.  The British lose a lot of “face” in doing that.

The city is empty and getting bombed, Endo calls telling Philip to leave and Philip is afraid but leaves the office for home.  He realizes the British military has abandoned the island to make their stand in Singapore.  Philip tells his father he will be working for the Japanese as soon as they take over.  This devastates his father.

penang WWII

George Town, Penang at its fall.

Chapter 4
Philip is present at the formal surrender of Penang – there, he sits with the dignitaries, interprets, gets his photo taken and earned the sobriquet of “running dog.”  This is all for the English. The remaining English authorities were removed as prisoners of war.

Henry Cross and other businessmen, mostly Chinese, are there – they have been kept on the island in order to conduct the transfer of business.  They are very upset with Philip.  It’s complete coercion from Philip to Cross and Hutton.

Philip checks and finds that Aunt Mei is safe but injured also elsewhere,  Grandfather Khoo is safe. Philip does this for his family.


Japanese currency in Malaysia – English text

Chapter 5
Endo-san tells Philip where Edward and Peter
MacAllister are being kept as prisoners-of-war.  The Japanese money (with English text) issued in Malaysia is worthless – called “banana notes.”  Philip takes off to Kuala Lumpur in search of them but the Japanese have taken Singapore and the English are there – or to “Siam” where they have been allowed to build a railroad – (and see “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” by Richard Flanagan for a GOOD book!)  And after searching the possible leads, it turns out that both Peter and Edward were sent to Siam.

Isabel is upset, but Father understands.  Endo-san is not surprised.  Is Philip becoming like Endo-san as Saotome-san said? Or is Endo-san trying to prevent that?  What is Endo-san like?  The health of Hiroshi-san, Endo-san’s boss, is worsening – Philip suggests the house on The Hill.

Schumann piano

Schumann piano

Chapter 6
Philip is isolated, ignored by his family and treated okay by the Japanese.  The Penang folks have to pay $50 million Straits dollars to the government – they don’t have it.  One of the Japanese at a meeting is the guy who was with Goru when Isabel shot at them. Endo-san says their home is safe.  The Chinese businessmen loathe Philip.

Philip assists Goro in confiscating the pianos from the homes of locals, English homes and Chinese. Goro plays Bach and punches an old man to his death.

Thanks to Endo-san, heavily censored letters come from Philip and Edward for Isabel and father who still don’t accept Philip working for the Japanese. Father offers to help pay the government fine although it’s only for Chinese.   They take the oil

William Daniell's Penang - 1880s

William Daniell’s Penang – 1880s

paintings by William Daniell from the 1880s.

And Philip realizes the depth of his betrayal by helping Endo-san he has been of tremendous assistance to the Japanese  in exchange for protection – (But is Endo-san only trying to protect his father and family – his lover,  Michiko?)  Philip’s fury is extreme but he continues to need protection – foreshadowing of a day to come when meditation will not help.

Chapter 7
But he is also putting his own and his family’s lives in peril from the Chinese and others on the island.  They try to burn the house and send warnings.  He tries to resign but that might be worse – the Japanese would lose face.   Philip goes to see Kon’s father, Towkay

Penang jellyfish

Penang jellyfish

Yeap, the head of the Red Banner (a Communist gang – part of Triad) just north of George Town.  Yeap tells Philip where Kon is – in a camp outside Ipoh.    In the end Towkay also threatens – jellyfish.

In a state of deep meditation Philip sees Endo-san trying to kill him – he quickly says a Haiku by Matsuo Basho -(again,  see The Narrow Road to the Deep North where the Japanese captors enjoy Basho).
Endo-san is gone, but Philip feels his pain and sadness,  Philip’s neck burns,  Endo-san strokes his neck where that had been cut in the 17th century – Philip had been providing information to rebels.  He has to repeat life until he gets it right.   Endo-san says that’s the fight he’s been training Philip for.  And they fight harder.

Chapter 8
Now comes the Sook Ching purge – mass killings of

Sook Ching orders

Sook Ching orders

Chinese and villagers ordered by General Yamashita in retribution. Fujihara tells  Philip who memorizes the names of the first victims and informs Towkay Yeap.  Now Philip is in more trouble because if Yeap saves the men he will be giving Philip away.  Yeah and Philip make a deal for Philip to fight some gang members.

Fujihara is furious and shows the Philip the prison/ torture and execution building.  He and Goru drive out to where Ming’s wedding was and Philip is forced to assist in the arrest of several villagers including Ming’s husband.  She slaps him and Guro orders her arrest.  Philip intervenes and threatens the Japanese.  Ming is let go.  The arrestees are forced to dig their own graves in the jungle – shot into them.

Now Philip understands Endo-san’s lies. Endo-san admits to sending him there but stands up for him with Fujihara and Phiip knows what he has to do –

Kuala Lumpur burials WWII

Kuala Lumpur burials WWII

He describes everything to Towkay Yeap who is at a loss and then goes to Ming to tell them and finds out they have been raped and told already.  He shows the graves and Ming returns to commit suicide and be buried with her husband – Philip finds her and does this but says,  “I never saw any butterflies.”   The villagers pull him out.  Taoist monks can’t wait to bury them because there are “other fields to attend to.”
Chapter 9
Philip’s father is angry and he doesn’t know everything.  A month later Towkay Yeap sends for him – Kon is there instead and introduces the beautiful Su Yen who is with the Malayan Communist party – a guerrilla fighter of the new type working with Force 136.  (Very  important later the Malays were fighting the Brits).

Kon wants to destroy the radio tower on Penang Hill – near where the Japanese headquarters is.  Philip is reluctant but does it – Kon tells him how life has been in Force 136 – bad.  And Su Yen is Kon’s lover and pregnant –  internal disputes – Communists are not triad folks –

The radio station is destroyed, the Japanese retaliate, Philip is living with the consequences of being a double-agent – fear.  The secret police now follow him and he complains to Endo-san.  But Philip realizes he is “outclassed.”   Things get worse in Penang but he starts to meet with Endo-san on their island.  It is now February of 1945.

And a letter comes from Edward that Peter is dead. Philip informs the family and Isabel stabs his  hand with a fork – his father tells him to leave the house.   And he has nowhere to go.  He goes to Endo-san for shelter.  He never reveals about being Towkay Yeap’s informer.  Endo-san refuses to tell Philip why he came to Penang.

Chapter 10
Japan is suffering against the US and that news travels covertly around the country – much originating with Philip.  The Japanese are looking for someone named the White Tiger (Kon).  Philip is lonely for Istana and his father and Isabel.

Uncle Lim turns in Isabel for having a radio transmitter.  Philip, Fujihara (who has a grudge against Isabel from the rifle incident), Lim, and Endo-san go to Istana where they break father’s butterfly collection.  Isabel is arrested but Endo-san shoots her rather than allowing her to be taken prisoner.  Later Aunt Mei is tortured and killed. His father is only imprisoned.

But Philip is not finished – the Japanese want him to help

Ikebana from Penang

Ikebana from Penang

locate the White Tiger – Kon.  A microphone is placed in the ikebana so Hiroshi, who is very ill, can hear. So now Philip has to warn Kon somehow.

Kon’s father,  Towkay Yeap, is totally stoned on opium in his office and won’t help.  Philip has to do it himself but how?   He sits by Endo-san and thinks, never looking at his teacher.

His conclusion is stunning – he has to break with Endo-san’s ideas and go to save Kon – because it is right – like Isabel had stood for what was right.  Endo-san leaves and his file is still there – Philip looks and gathers more info.  The Japanese have captured Tanaka hoping that will be bait for Kon.  Tanaka came to Japan to look after Endo-san.

Philip says good-bye to his father and collects Aunt Mei’s ashes.  He says good-bye to Endo-san and receives a sword.  Endo-san has failed him – Philip has chosen for himself.

Chapter 12

Philip and Michiko (in current time) are talking – Philip uses the name Philip Hutton.  They sit where he and Endo-san sat at the last meeting.  He has nothing but memories but he doesn’t want it all erased by moving but the world is changing.  But he does remember – “blessed with the gift of memory,”  he thinks.   Philip has become a “fixture” in Georgetown.  His business is historical preservation.

Penang restoration including Cheong Fatt Tze house (interesting):

At Towkay Yeap’s  old house which Philip and his architects are restoring,  Philip “communicates” with Kon.


Keris – spiritual blades

He takes Michiko out to eat and the story suddenly gets very sensual again – back to reality – sights, sounds, smells, tastes, textures.  Philip drinks too much in general and his name is remembered. Michiko knows where Philip’s father’s keris – knives.

Chapter 13
Back still during the wars,  Philip goes to Ipoh to find his grandfather – tells him all that has happened blaming himself for everything.   But Grandfather gives him the jade poison-detecting pin.  Grandfather disappeared – and so did his temple (although the monks agreed it had been there.

Chapter 14
With his sword he continues to seek Kon, gets “collected” by the triad, taken to the jungle, where he meets Kon and tells him of the plot.  The group goes to ambush it and ends up in a gunfight with Kon, Philip, Yong Kwan and Tanaka-san escape but Tanaka-san is recaptured – and freed.

Now it’s Yong Kwan against Kon for supremacy of the guerrillas.  Tenaka-san’s legs are

British Halifax

British Halifax

broken so he can’t escape.  Philip wants to go home and they take Tenaka-san but Philip won’t kill Saotome out of mercy – he leaves him for the Japanese or someone.

Yong Kwan and Su Yen chase them but after an escape,  Kon beheads Tenaka per his request and then Su Yen chooses Yong,   Kon falls into the river and Philip can’t find Kon’s body and leaves.  Planes circle him on his way and he knows it’s the British Halifax and Landcasters.

He gets back to Ipoh and his enemies are waiting – Goro and others are ready to execute him.

Chapter 15
At Butterworth, across from Penang, they hear the planes again.  Goro takes Philip to Endo-san who kicks Goro out and Philip tells Endo-san that Tanaka is dead.  Philip’s father is in jail and Philip is accused of passing info to the triads.  Philip tells Endo-san it’s time to go home.  Endo-san wants to go home to Miyajima Island (in Hiroshima Bay).

On the way to his cell Philip sees his father,  he’s old.   Philip is tried by a tribunal and sentenced to execution – Endo-san helps him as he can or will.  On the way to his execution he is jeered, remembers.  His father is there although Philip has asked that he not be –

Endo-san approaches and time seems to go backwards, the teacher says that his father will die but he will live.  Edno-san decapitates Noel Hutton while Philip watches.  Philip is set free to go to Istana,  where his father is buried,  under Endo-san’s supervision.  Edno-san has a letter for Philip from his father.  Philip reads it and allows himself to grieve.

Chapter 17
The relationship between Michiko and Philip is growing but he has lost the ability to trust – a cornerstone of aikido.  The only thing missing from memories is “someone to share them with.”  She takes him to his father’s blades which are in the firefly grove.  And they talk of free will and “the road not taken.”

Chapter 18
Philip paints a British Union Jack on the tiled roof of Istana –  Hiroshima is bombed, Endo-san weeps,  Japan surrenders.  Fujihara asks Philip to assist him in suicide but Philip turns him over to the Anti-Japanese societies.   Hiroshi shoots himself.

When Endo-san is taken to surrender he relinquishes his prisoner – Philip.  But just then Goro jumps out to assassinate Endo-san, who gets shot so Philip takes Goru on – tells Erskine to hold back his men and the two really tangle.  Philip wins of course,  and after some consideration, does not kill Goro.  Endo-san says it took too long.

Chapter 19
Endo-san will be tried by  tribunal conducted by Erskine.  Philip goes to the old family offices which are destroyed.  A young girl named Adele (see opening chapters)  shows up to work.  Other office staff show up.

The Communists are active near Ipoh.  Philip misses Kon and visits his home but it’s empty. And he visits Endo-san who finally tells him why he did those things – it was love of family – like Philip.  They train until Endo-san’s judgment- life imprisonment – but he escapes.

Erskine tells Philip that the sign on the roof probably saved the house.  Father smiles down at him.

Chapter 20
Michiko is getting sicker  – cancer, apparently from the radiation of the Hiroshima bomb.  Her family all died. She sent Tanaka to Japan to find out about Endo-san.  And now she is dying – wants to go to Endo-san’s island.  Philip takes her.

Chapter 21
After Erskine leaves life goes on – one day a letter arrives re Edward – he is dead. And Endo-san is holding the letter.  They  talk about the future – they have to part for separate destinies.  And Philip does what he is called on to do –

Chapter 22
Michiko wants the same but Philip says he won’t.

Chapter 23
At a ceremony and a party Philip uses his full name,  Philip Arminius,  Khoos-Hutton and he feels a sense of wholeness.  And he decides to spend the rest of his life on Endo-san’s island.

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