Reading...The Small Rain

The Small Rain

The Small Rain, by Madeleine L'Engle was an interesting read, but one that I put down with a definite "meh" feeling. It's L'Engle's first novel, a coming-of-age story about an introverted, sensitive, serious, and somewhat withdrawn girl with a passion and talent for music.

Katherine grows up surrounded by music and theatre, and knows from a young age that she wants to be a pianist like her mother. Her closest companions are adults, and she doesn't make friends easily. She is content to spend time alone, or with Manya, or later with her mother, and to pursue her music with a single-minded passion. There are many turns in the road for Katherine though: her mother dies, her father and Manya marry, and Katherine is sent to boarding school in Switzerland. Despite plans to stay in Paris and study piano, Katherine's father and Manya force her to return with them to New York, where she studies, falls in love, and experiences independence and a measure of freedom. She experiences a bit of the 1940s bohemian lifestyle and finds she doesn't really fit in there either. Her heart is broken in new ways, but ultimately she always finds herself again in her music.

This book was a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, it captured my interest. I was sympathetic to Katherine, who never really fit into any box, especially in a time and culture (the book was written in 1945) in which there's a lot of pressure as a female in being a certain type of person. And speaking of time and culture -- L'Engle does write a vivid setting. Backstage of New York City theatres...the clear, cool mountains of Switzerland...Paris...1940s Greenwhich Village...country homes...tiny city apartments...L'Engle certainly creates a definite mood and place in this book. On the other hand, I was often frustrated with the way Katherine was almost simultaneously a child and an adult -- in one breath almost, people would treat her like a 5 year old and 35 year old -- even love interests! It became exceedingly irritating, and at times uncomfortable. Of course, Katherine would often act simultaneously immature and mature, so who knows which came first. It also felt a bit overwrought and heavy-handed, perhaps a mark of it being L'Engle's first novel.

So, bottom line...not my favorite. I think I'll stick with L'Engle's later stuff.