The Rain Watcher

By Tatiana de Rosnay

St. Martin’s Press. 240 pp. $27.99.

Reviewed by Maureen McCarthy

Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Paris is in chaos. Relentless rain is pushing the Seine out of its banks and into homes, museums, and train stations. Photographer Linden Malegarde would know how to deal with this if he were on assignment.

But Linden isn’t in Paris for work. He’s there to mark his parents’ wedding anniversary and get through the weekend without a scene. All that changes when his father suffers a stroke. Now Linden has to lead his fractious family through their crisis as the city around them reels. As everything teeters, Linden glimpses the chance of a reconciliation he thought impossible.

Tatiana de Rosnay (Sarah’s Key, The House I Loved) again mines the past to deliver a powerful tale of people caught up in major moments in history. This time she reimagines Paris’ recent close calls with the raging Seine. What if they’d been worse? “Paris looks like an obscure and sinister Venice, a drowned metropolis gradually sinking into oblivion, incapable of putting up a fight, yielding to the hurried and lethal violence of its demented river.”

De Rosnay is so good at this storytelling I wish she had focused on her family/flood narrative. Her decision to intersperse a decades-old mystery adds little but distraction. My advice to readers would be to skip the italics sections and savor the story of her beloved city on the brink.

This review originally appeared in the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune .