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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.
Robbie Arnott’s stunning second novel remakes our relationship with the natural world. The Rain Heron is equal parts horror and wonder, and utterly gripping.
‘With its emotional power and rich symbolism, The Rain Heron is an immersion in landscape, climate and an animal world that lives despite us, not for us. Robbie Arnott has imagined a creature, by turns exquisitely beautiful and terrifying, the likes of which I have never seen in Australian literature. His titular heron is a source of breathless wonder, of reverence. Arnott is just as wise with his human characters, with their wretchedness and elation, love and mistrust. There are images in this book that are entirely new to me, and I will cherish them.’
‘Robbie Arnott is singlehandedly reinventing Australian literature. The Rain Heron is a soaring feat of the imagination.’
‘The Rain Heron is exquisite. Reading it feels like hearing a legend from our past, from our near future; like remembering something you had always known but somehow forgotten. It is both fantastical and deeply true.’
‘The Rain Heron is genuinely and completely magnificent—a magical thing.’
‘The Rain Heron is an intoxicating fable from an extraordinary imagination. Robbie Arnott writes like the words want to be his.’
‘Robbie Arnott imagines a thoroughly strange, inky-dark land of the near future. Sharp and original, The Rain Heron is a beautiful novel about love, violence and redemption.’
‘A journey into a perilous world where the horror of human greed collides with the eloquence of nature.’
‘In The Rain Heron, Robbie Arnott has turned his gaze to civilisation’s need to control and understand the natural world. This is a book full of heart—it’s so richly imagined, inventive and beautifully written, with a strong message, but is never didactic. It’s like nothing I’ve read and Arnott has quickly become one of my favourite authors.’
‘A book that is not only a compelling, original read, but one that delivers hard truths that urgently need to be heard.’
‘The Rain Heron is unlike anything I have ever read. As luminescent as it is devastating, Arnott’s tightly wrought storytelling reveals the myriad harms we wreak both on our planet and on each other. It is mesmerising.’
‘A strange and curious book…the craft is extraordinary.‘
‘Arnott weaves a narrative that feels both timely and timelessly engaging. A powerful meditation on human greed and frailty, The Rain Heron also leaves room for redemption. This bracing follow-up to Flames will reinforce Arnott’s reputation for unusual, risk-taking literary fiction.’
‘An engrossing narrative of mystery and escape that treats the reader to bravura runs of writing, especially around the elements of water and fire…You never quite know which direction the story will take off in as it creates a new kind of fairytale for our fire-prone landscape.’
‘A searing exploration of the entanglement of internal and external nature, and the human mind’s unconscious pull towards dominating the natural world. Arnott is brilliant at writing the natural world.’
‘A story of survival, an ecological thriller weighted with a mythological perspective, and a dystopian adventure…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 the perfect book to read now. It brings us closer and it steadies the world just a little.’
‘The Rain Heron is literary art. Robbie Arnott has deftly crafted an audacious idea into an original, compelling work…Flames is shrouded in a gothic, macabre Tasmanian setting. I thought it brilliant. The Rain Heron is even better…Arnott blends his genres impeccably. Nothing is overdone or superfluous…When the northerner, the seeker of squid ink, views a painting of the ocean, he is entranced by the quality and depth of its brightness and texture. It is “an artwork laced with ink”, a perfect metaphor for this luminous tale.’
‘Arnott’s vision coalesces into an affecting narrative, charged with symbolism and characters who hold trauma, pain and cruelty in the same space…As in his previous novel, Flames, Arnott is uncommonly adept at imbuing his work with a rich, lived-in feel, a world close to our own, filled with parallel myths and coinciding calamities. And as he did in Flames, Arnott reminds us he is one of the best prose stylists currently working in Australia…His is a lyrical, natural style that combines the expansiveness of a fable with fully realised detail. Arnott’s sentences are truly a pleasure to read and the characters finely studied.’
‘[The Rain Heron] would be a cautionary tale if the characters and the situations weren’t so close to our own. As it is, this just may be a history lesson in man’s stupidity.’
‘A strange and curious book…the craft is extraordinary.‘
‘If you like to be amazed, confounded and left wide-eyed in wonder by an author’s breathtaking audacity and incandescent story-telling ability, this is a novel for you.’
‘For some artists, landscape is both inspiration and filter, and the Tasmanian wilderness is to Arnott what the Lakes District was to Wordsworth…Flames revealed Arnott’s discipline in maintaining a line between the magical and the humdrum…And he does this again. The natural world is real and marvellous in the sense that it is full of things at which to marvel, and the most shocking, most violent acts are not those of humans against humans but humans against the natural world…The Rain Heron is an unsettling adult jigsaw.’