Journey Through Time
Going Places, Malaysian Airlines , April 2007
Compiled by LYDIA LAU

If you had to choose, what would it be: save your family in your home country, or abide by your adopted father figure who's actually a spy? Such is the predicament of Philip Hutton, the protagonist in Malaysian author Tan Twan Eng's novel, The Gift of Rain. "I've always been interested in Penang and its history, so I decided to set the story there." Tan lived in various places in Malaysia as a child, but was born in Penang, so it holds a special place in his heart. The story is based during colonial times in Penang, when Japan invaded Malaysia during the last days of the British ruling. "It is also a sort of paean to parts of Penang which are fast disappearing, or have already been lost forever: the historical buildings, the colonial architecture, the narrow streets of Georgetown."

Half-British, half-Chinese Philip Hutton forms an unexpected friendship with Hayato Endo, a Japanese diplomat who becomes his sensei. When Japn invaded Malaya, Philip is forced into working with the Japanese to safeguard his family. He turns into an outsider trusted by none and hated by many, How will this complicated situation end?

"I want the readers to experience all the emotions the characters experience, to feel what that they too had lived through that long-gone era, as though they had really been there." Tan currently divides his time between Cape Town, South Africa and Kuala Lumpur. The Gift of Rain is his first novel - and also the first literary novel to be published in the UK which deals with colonial Penang - and he is currently working on his second.

The Gift of Rain is available at leading bookstores in Malaysia. Fore more information, visit

Article courtesy of Going Places, April 2007