Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Gift of Rain

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The Gift of Rain

A Novel

by Tan Twan Eng

The Gift of Rain
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  • First Published:
    May 2008, 448 pages
    May 2009, 448 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Beyond the Book

A Short History of Penang
Most of the action in The Gift of Rain occurs on the island of Penang (part of the Malayan state of Penang) situated off the northwest corner of the Malay Peninsula, in the Strait of Malacca (maps of South-East Asia, Malaysia and Penang). The small, turtle-shaped island has a total area of approximately 293 square kilometers (183 square miles), with an estimated population of 678,000 (2007). Most people live in or near the capital city of George Town. The island itself is less developed than the rest of the state of Penang, as its interior is hilly and densely forested.

Although mainland Malaysia itself has a long and complex history, the island of Penang was largely unpopulated until the British "discovered" it in the 18th century. Captain Francis Light secured it for the British East India Company in 1786, believing it would...

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