4 Extra Debut. Trying to understand her deceased father to write his story, Ruth Swain turns to his library of books. Ailish Symons reads History of the Rain by Niall Williams.
We are our stories. We tell them to stay alive or to keep alive those who only live now in the telling.
19-year-old Ruth Swain is lying in her childhood home in the small Irish village of Faha in the attic room at the top of the stairs in the bed which her father had to construct in situ and which turned out to be as much boat as bed. She has Something Wrong with her, having collapsed during her fresher year at Trinity in Dublin, and finds herself bedbound in the attic room beneath the rain, in the margins between this world and the next.
Ruth is in search of her father. To understand the father she has lost. To find him Ruth journeys through the ancestry of the curious Swain family - from the Reverend Swain her great-grandfather, to her grandfather Abraham to her father Virgil – and in doing so discovers an enchanting story of pole-vaulting, soldiering, stubbornness, leaping salmon, poetry, the pursuit of the Impossible Standard, and the wild rain-sodden history of fourteen acres of the worst farming land in Ireland. Above all, Ruth embarks on a journey through books. Three thousand, nine hundred and fifty-eight books to be precise, which are piled high and line the walls of her attic room. As Ruth searches for her father in their pages, her story becomes a vital, witty and poignant celebration of imagination, books, love and the healing power of storytelling.
Niall Williams is also the author of bestselling novels including As It is In Heaven, The Fall of the Light, Only Say the Word and Four Letters of Love.
Abridged by Doreen Estall
Read by Ailish Symons
Producer: Heather Larmour
First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2014.
You are at the first episode