Member Loginmenu
The Rain Heron

The Rain Heron: Winner of the Age Book of the Year

Robbie Arnott

  • awardWinner, Age Book of the Year, 2021
  • awardShortlisted, Miles Franklin Literary Award, 2021
  • awardShortlisted, ALS Gold Medal, 2021
  • awardShortlisted, Fiction, Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, 2022
  • awardShortlisted, Voss Literary Prize, 2021
  • awardShortlisted, Premier's Prize for Fiction, Tasmanian Literary Awards, 2022
  • awardShortlisted, Small Publishers' Adult Book of the Year, 2021
  • awardShortlisted, William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, United States, 2022
  • awardLonglisted, Not the Booker, United Kingdom, 2020
  • 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.


    2SER: Final Draft (0:3:15)
    ABC Radio Hobart: Your Afternoon (0:39:08) 
    ABC Radio National: Bookshelf  (0:00:55 – 0:13:10) 
    ABC Radio National: The Book Show   
    ABC Radio National: The Drawing Room   
    Australian Book Review  
    BBC World Service: Cultural Frontline (0:16:12)  
    Buzzfeed: 19 Anticipated Books That Have Finally Been Released For You To Read #17     
    CapitaLiterature festival (YouTube)    
    First Word podcast   
    Guardian: a guide to the Miles Franklin 2021 shortlist   
    Guardian: 22 books we couldn’t put down    
    Kill Your Darlings  
    Kirkus Reviews   
    LA Review of Books   
    LitHub: Megafires and Mass Extinction: Searching for Hope at the End of the Natural World (op-ed)  
    Melbourne Writers Festival  
    The Millions   
    New York Times   
    New Yorker   
    NZ Booklovers    
    Saturday Paper  
    Sydney Morning Herald: Spectrum  
    Sydney Review of Books   
    Tasmanian Times   
    The Times (UK)($)
    Wasafiri (op-ed)   
    Weekend Australian ($)  
    Wheeler Centre podcast   

    Robbie Arnott
    About the Author

    Robbie Arnott’s acclaimed debut, Flames (2018), won a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelist award and a Tasmanian Premier’s Literary Prize, and was shortlisted for a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, a New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award, a Queensland Literary Award, the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction and the Not the Booker...

    Read Moreright
    Text publication date:
    5 July 2022
    AU Price:
    NZ Price:
    Loading Rating
    Praise for Robbie Arnott
    andThe Rain Heron

    ‘Robbie Arnott is singlehandedly reinventing Australian literature. The Rain Heron is a soaring feat of the imagination.’

    ‘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.’

    ‘A strange and curious book…the craft is extraordinary.‘

    ‘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 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.’

    ‘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.’

    ‘An intuitive understanding of fauna and flora and humankind’s problematic, often violent relationship with nature…Written with economy and grace, The Rain Heron is a timeless and poignant meditation on our fragile relationship with the natural environment.’

    ‘Arnott’s writing is clear and compelling, particularly in descriptions of the folkloric bird, with its “rain-smeared transparency”.’

    The Rain Heron is genuinely and completely magnificent—a magical thing.’

    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 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.’

    ‘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] 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.‘

    ‘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.’

    ‘A beautifully poetic, hypnotic, barreling ride…As delightfully brutal as it is captivating…It is as pitch-perfect a second novel as could have been anticipated…Arnott displays stunning talent on every page…A stunning blend of mythologies, grim society, and fatefully interconnected lives.’

    ‘Unsettling…Arnott writes vibrantly about the harsh wonder of nature, his vivid characters becoming almost animal themselves.’

    ‘Arnott’s writing is as refreshing as a wash of rain; no one is producing fiction quite like him…[His] lyrical writing is saturated with mystery and old magic…The Rain Heron reads like a fable, exquisite and melancholy, and Arnott’s love of landscape and nature is the most striking aspect of the novel…[It blends] what feels like timeless mythology with a dire warning for our future.’

    ‘Daring, atmospheric…The novel moves at a quicksilver pace, shimmering with menace and electric visions of forests and lake-filled valleys.’

    The Rain Heron is an evocative and poetic ecological myth…Mesmerising and beautifully written…Each narrative thread could stand as a shocking, beautiful and moral short story in its own right, but Robbie Arnott weaves them seamlessly together into a satisfying whole.’

    ‘Arnott’s eco-fable, set in a politically broken near future, explores the constant push-pull that exists between our capacity for enchantment and our need to exploit what we find…It’s sad and satisfying.’

    ‘Full of enchanted realism…[Arnott] writes on behalf of the fierce dedication necessary for anyone to be her best self. This is a lofty ambition but it is what great stories demand from us: figurative blood, figurative tears, and a commitment to witness the world in all its wonder.’

    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.’

    ‘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.’

    The Rain Heron confirms [Robbie Arnott’s] place as one of Australia’s leading young novelists…As myths collide with reality, Arnott’s imaginative dark novel ends with a sobering uplift, reaffirming that ultimately relationships and kindness matter.’

    ‘Arnott’s eco-fable, set in a politically broken near future, explores the constant push-pull that exists between our capacity for enchantment and our need to exploit what we find. It’s sad and satisfying.’

    ‘The real deal…Phenomenally original, an exquisite way with words.‘

    ‘Powerfully evocative.’

    ‘An absolutely stunning novel…A tale of myths and legends that also looks at climate change, corporation, power and how we fight for survival. I thought it was phenomenal. With Flames and now The Rain Heron, Robbie Arnott has become one of my absolute favourite authors.’

    ‘One of the most original and unique stories I have maybe ever read…I absolutely wolfed it down. I loved how much it made me think about the give-and-take relationship humans have with nature…It is beautiful.’

    ‘A journey into a perilous world where the horror of human greed collides with the eloquence of nature.’

    ‘Superb descriptions of nature and weather, of human emotion and animal instinct…evoke a landscape that is both startlingly immediate and mysteriously otherworldly: the perfect setting for a tense narrative of eco-disaster and fragile endurance. At once an urgent thriller and an elegiac fable, this mesmerizing tale is as lyrical as it is suspenseful.’

    The Rain Heron is a patient and rooted fable told as naturally as a tree grows. With timeless and captivating prose, Robbie Arnott has a talent for making it look easy. I was transfixed.’

    ‘Vibrant and violent…Arnott fascinates with fable-like stories and thoughtful meditations…Beautiful imagery and magical moments.’

    ‘Astonishing…With the intensity of a perfect balance between the mythic and the real, The Rain Heron keeps turning and twisting, taking you to unexpected places. A deeply emotional and satisfying read. Beautifully written.’

    The Rain Heron is fantastic. The ripping pace of a thriller combined with the emotional complexity of a Shakespearian tragedy, delivered in diamond-sharp prose. It pulls you into a world of myths come to life, where environmental destruction collides with sociopolitical decay, and you can’t help but feel for all the characters as they navigate through the wreckage. Highly recommended.’

    ‘In this lush and harrowing novel, Ren joins Harker, a soldier, in her search for the mythic rain heron and both are forever changed by the quest. Robbie Arnott chronicles their voyage through a harsh and wondrous landscape in gorgeous, lyric prose, while his plot moves with the swift elegance of an expertly crafted page-turner. The Rain Heron is a potent fable that speaks urgently to our present times.’

    Flames (2018) was one of the more eye-catching debuts of recent years…the work of a writer with imaginative reach, a vivid sense of detail, and a willingness to try his hand at a variety of styles…[The Rain Heron is] more confident and focussed…an exemplary work of popular fiction…It is a richly imaginative work that appeals to a sense of wonder.’

    ‘Amazing…One of the ones that is closest to perfect of all the Australian books I read this year…An extraordinary book.’

    ‘Inventive and arresting and full of images that stay with you.’

    ‘Reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s visceral The Road, an air of savage solitude infuses Arnott’s lyrically atmospheric postapocalyptic novel, where trauma and resilience are connected to memory and the loss of both self and surroundings.’

    ‘A gorgeous and spellbinding eco-fantasy.’

    ‘One of the very, very rare books that completely stunned me…Very beautiful and a little bit terrifying. It’s an intensely Australian novel but in a way that is utter unlike any Australian writing that’s going on at the moment.’

    ‘Astonishing…With the intensity of a perfect balance b/w the mythic and the real, The Rain Heron keeps turning & twisting, taking you to unexpected places. A deeply emotional & satisfying read.’

    ‘A dazzlingly visual novel…This is the visuality of myth, in which images are important not for their beauty or grandeur but for their resonance, their power to encapsulate deep truths more fully and potently than any amount of exposition ever could…It’s a powerful story, beautifully rendered…The Rain Heron is a new story about learning to heed the old stories.’

    ‘Lush, brutal…Vivid descriptive passages…While the heron is Arnott’s original creation, it feels as ancient and established as a unicorn…The unexpected notes of hope and redemption for multiple characters in the finale bring a memorable and satisfying sense of closure.’

    ’Strange, intriguing and exquisitely written.’

    ‘A sort of dreamy, dystopian, fantasy allegory. It’s vivid and strange…Definitely worth a read.’

    Other editions ofThe Rain Heron
    • The Rain Heron
      ISBN: 9781925923315
      2 June 2020
      Buy ebook
    • The Rain Heron
      ISBN: 9781922268778
      2 June 2020