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Philip Hutton was an elderly half-Chinese, half-British man living out his days in relative peace in his ancestral home of Istana on Penang, an island in Malaya. Everything changed and he was forced to come to terms with his past when a Japanese woman named Michiko Murakami turned up on his door step. She was seeking information on someone named Endo-san, a mutual friend of theirs whose bonds of love went much deeper than friendship. Upon Michiko’s request, Philip told his tale of the life he and Endo-san led together.
Philip had been a lonely child. Being born half-Chinese and half-British made both cultures equally despise him. He felt too Chinese to fit in with his British family, and because he came from a British family, the Chinese customs were foreign to him. When a Japanese man moved onto the island across from Philip’s home Philip quickly latched on to him, entranced by not only the Japanese culture but by the man himself. This man, named Endo-san, would come to take Philip as a pupil, teaching him martial arts and sword fighting.
Philip’s family was away on holiday in England while he stayed around to watch Istana, their family mansion. He trained with Endo-san and excitedly showed him around the islands. The condition of Europe worsened as Hitler invaded Poland. Miraculously, Philip’s family returned to Penang safe, though their journey took longer than expected. With the family back Philip began working for his father’s company Hutton & Sons in 1940. Much of Philip’s cultural identities entangled themselves there as he reconciled both his British heritage and his Chinese heritage. Philip’s brother William joined the Navy, like many, fearing war in Malaya. They held a going away party which represented the last peaceful moments of Philip’s life. War broke out soon after with the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor.
When the Japanese arrived to the islands they met little-to-no resistance, as many British had fled when war broke out. The Japanese Occupation officially began on February 15, 1942 when Singapore surrendered. Philip, with his connections through Endo-san, worked for the Japanese, despite his family vehemently opposing it. Philip thought this was the only way to secure his families safety. He was half-right, and while his family was not sent to one of the many labor camps like other British, they all eventually died in resisting their oppressors anyway. William died in battle; Edward, Philip’s other brother, was captured while he was on another Island and sent to a death camp; Isabel, Philip’s sister, died assisting the Japanese resistance movements; and Philip’s father died sacrificing himself to save Philip from execution. Philip resisted the Japanese in the end through subterfuge and spying. Throughout this time, Philip learned that his friendship with Endo-san, and more specifically his showing him around the islands, directly affected the ease of which the Japanese conquered Malaya.
The Japanese eventually lost the war thanks in no small part to the atomic bombs dropped by the Americans, and the British returned to Malaya. Philip saved Endo-san from his punishment laid out by the war tribunal. Using a sword gifted by Endo-san himself, Philip took his old master’s life to save him from a lifetime in some awful prison.
Philip finished his story to Michiko, and some time after, she died too, a long time sufferer of radiation poisoning from the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Philip felt a sense of completion and joy in telling his story again, and by telling it, freed himself from much of the guilt and anguish that he had held onto for all these years.
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Written in lush, evocative prose, The Gift of Rain spans decades as it takes readers from the final days of the Chinese emperors to the dying era of the British Empire, and through the mystical temples, bustling cities, and forbidding rain forests of Malaya.
In 1939, sixteen-year-old Philip Huttonthe half-Chinese youngest child of the head of one of Penangs great trading familiesfeels alienated from both the British and Chinese communities. He discovers a sense of belonging in his unexpected friendship with Hayato Endo, a Japanese diplomat who rents an island from his father. Philip proudly shows his new friend around his adored island of Penang, and in return Endo teaches him about Japanese language and culture and trains him in the art and discipline of aikido.
But such knowledge comes at a terrible price. As World War II rages in Europe, the Japanese savagely invade Malaya, and Philip realizes that his mentor and senseito whom he owes absolute loyaltyis a Japanese spy. Young Philip has been an unwitting traitor, and he is forced into collaborating with the Japanese to safeguard his family. He turns into the ultimate outsider, trusted by none and hated by many.
Tormented by his part in the events, Philip risks everything by working in secret to save as many people as he can from the brutality of the invaders. The Gift of Rain is shot through with universal themes, a novel about agonizingly divided loyalties and unbearable loss. But it is also about human courage andultimatelyabout the nature of enduring loyalty.
The Gift of Rain
Endo and I finished our meal of raw fish and rice wrapped in dried seaweed. It was late when his chauffeur returned us to Istana. As he walked down the steps to the beach he said, I would like to know more of Penang. Will you show me around?
Yes, I said, pleased that he had asked me.
That was how I became his guide, taking him around the island. He wanted to look at temples first, and I knew immediately which one to show him.
Endo-san was fascinated by the Temple of Azure Cloud, where hundreds of pit vipers took up residence, coiled around incense holders and the eaves and crossbeams of the roof, inhaling the smoke of incense lit by worshipers.
He bought a packet of joss sticks from a monk and placed them in the large bronze urn after whispering a prayer. Plates of eggs had been left on the tables as offerings for the snakes. I stood around, uncertain. Religion had never played a large part in my life. My mother had been a ...
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