Saturday, May 6, 2017

Review: Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett

 Summary from Goodreads:

Rain is elemental, mysterious, precious, destructive.

It is the subject of countless poems and paintings; the top of the weather report; the source of the world's water. Yet this is the first book 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 frog and fish rains—with the human story of our ambition 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 readers 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 a book for everyone who has ever experienced it.

My Review: 

I was not going to review the various fiction/nonfiction from my college courses but I decided this one needed to be discussed.

I would have loved to read this nonfiction history of rain outside of a college course. It was hard to pick it apart to write a paper because the author packs a lot of information into 355 pages. However, each chapter tackles scientific and metaphorical aspects of rain and connect to the main point of protecting our lands from pollution and acid rain.

The first half of the novel has info dumping as each chapter looks at many historical and cultural aspects of rain like the umbrella, the scent of rain, and various antidotes about rain. I enjoyed the small tales but did not care for the vast amount of information that was packed into large chapters. I would have enjoyed more from the point of view of the author instead of the heavy focus on historical figures and societies.

The second half goes away from the information overload and begins to have a clear focus. It was easier to read the last half because I was able to find a main theme.

I recommend checking this out even if your like me and do not tend to read nonfiction. It reads like a novel and has a powerful overall message at the end.

My Rating:

 4 Stars Out of 5 Stars

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