I was reading The Rains Came as TV news showed floods in the US, Brazil, and China that left thousands homeless. None of those pictures moved me as deeply as Louis Bromfield’s 70-year-old novel about a flood in India.
Indians and a motley collection of British are sweating in Ranchipur, waiting for the monsoons to bring relief from the heat, when Lord Esketh arrives with his bored trophy wife, Edwina. They have hardly unpacked when the rains come.
Rivers and streams rise. Then an earthquake breeches a dam above Ranchipur. Most of the city is swept away. The Maharini’s government mobilizes, calling on foreign residents they trust to help.
As the upper crust ex-pats roll up their sleeves, they surprise themselves. Edwina volunteers at the hospital where she can be near the sexy Indian doctor, Major Safti, and finds she can be useful. Fern Simon changes in a week from a self-centered teenager to a responsible woman and shows alcoholic-in-training Tom Ransome that he’s not as emotionally desiccated as he thought.
Bromfield tells how the “miserable people passing . . . one by one, quarreling and reviling each other in their haste and horror, became human” to Ransome. And Bromfield makes them human to readers, too.The Rains Came: A Novel of Modern India By Louis Bromfield Harper & Brothers, 1937 597 pages #9 on the 1937 bestseller list My grade: A-