The Rain Heron

Robbie Arnott

The Rain Heron
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The Rain Heron

Robbie Arnott

Winner of the 2021 Age Book of the Year

Ren lives alone on the remote frontier of a country devastated by a coup. High on the forested slopes, she survives by hunting and trading-and forgetting.

But when a young soldier comes to the mountains in search of a local myth, Ren is inexorably drawn into her impossible mission. As their lives entwine, unravel and erupt-as myths merge with reality-both Ren and the soldier are forced to confront what they regret, what they love, and what they fear.

The Rain Heron is the dizzying, dazzling new novel from the author of Flames.


‘A farmer lived, but not well.’ The opening line of Robbie Arnott’s second novel, The Rain Heron, grabs you by the throat. The rest of the novel never lets you go. In a swirling display of rich, descriptive language, of fraught interiority and dogged determination, The Rain Heron pulls the reader through a landscape and culture horrific for its uncanny likeness to our world today.

The Rain Heron of the title is a bird of myth, able to save and destroy the land, as recounted in the timeless fable of the opening chapter. What follows is a story of survival, an ecological thriller weighted with a mythological perspective, and a dystopian adventure story that comes full circle, feeling ancient in its future setting.

What I am trying to say in all these words that circle as The Rain Heron does, is that this is a novel that beautifully captures people at war with themselves, with each other, with nature – and it’s a taut, tense thriller at the same time. It is timely in the way mythological quests always are. It is current in its concerns for an environment searching for balance. It is refreshing in its gendering of the myth’s protagonists.

I thought it would be too much to read now, when all is upturned and we are distanced from each other, but I was wrong. It is the perfect book to read now. It brings us closer and it steadies the world just a little.

Marie Matteson is a book buyer at Readings Carlton.

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