"A wildly audacious and compellingly written book ... [Rain] creates dizzying effects"
The April 2013 issue of US magazine Opera News contains a fabulous piece about The Heat of the Sun. Key quote: “It’s a wildly audacious and compellingly written book … Reading The Heat of the Sun is like watching an author keep daring himself to take higher and higher hurdles and clearing them every time; he creates dizzying effects, both in his web of plot twists and in the prism of twentieth-century history through which he tells his story.”
Here is an extract and you can read the full review on the Opera News website…
In the standard opera repertory, we aren’t encouraged to think much about the lives of the characters past the final curtain; usually, the opera’s climax is so dramatic or violent that there is little point in fantasizing about what may have happened to them later on. Some years ago, however, David Rain, an Australian writer who has taught literature in Ireland and England, found himself musing on the possible fate of Trouble, the child in Madama Butterfly. “This question of what happened to the boy lodged in my mind,” says Rain. “I was sufficiently interested to read the libretto of Madama Butterfly, and the short story by John Luther Long, and the text of David Belasco’s play. I also managed to dig up a copy of Pierre Loti’s book Madame Chrysanthemum, from which Long seems to have plundered quite a lot of his story.”
The result of Rain’s musing is a novel, The Heat of the Sun, originally published in England and recently brought out in North America by Henry Holt. It’s a wildly audacious and compellingly written book that traces Trouble’s ostracization in an exclusive Vermont boarding school, his work for the WPA during the Great Depression, his involvement with the development of the atomic bomb and his fractured relationship with his father, Senator Benjamin Pinkerton, and his mother, a tormented, cruel and ambitious senator’s wife. Reading The Heat of the Sun is like watching an author keep daring himself to take higher and higher hurdles and clearing them every time; he creates dizzying effects, both in his web of plot twists and in the prism of twentieth-century history through which he tells his story.
“What brought my novel together is the fact that Madama Butterfly is set in Nagasaki,” says Rain. “When most Western people say ‘Nagasaki,’ we think, ‘atomic bomb.’ I thought about Madama Butterfly’s libretto and how her father is supposed to have killed himself after the rebellion in 1877, and she is supposed to be about fifteen. That would put the date around 1892. But I thought, let’s take the opera’s date of 1904 literally. I used the libretto as an urtext and assumed that everything in it was true. So if we assume that it’s the very early twentieth century, a lot of these characters would still be alive during World War II, and I knew I had to link up Madama Butterfly and the atomic bombing during the war. That inspired a lot of things, like the idea of Lieutenant Pinkerton becoming a leading politician who is actually involved in the whole run-up to World War II.”