The Rain Before it Falls Paperback – 5 Jun 2008
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A hauntingly melancholy tale of love and loss...a moving exploration of the inheritance of unhappiness, and the devestating consequences it can have for future generations (Daily Mail )
Potent and melancholy, like a short, sad song (The Guardian )
A male writer who can enter such traditionally female territory and aquit himself with such aplomb (The Sunday Telegraph )
About the Author
Jonathan Coe was born in Birmingham in 1961. He has published seven novels, all of which are available in Penguin: The Accidental Woman, A Touch of Love, The Dwarves of Death, What a Carve Up!, which won the 1995 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, The House of Sleep, which won the 1998 Prix Medicis Etranger, The Rotter's Club, winner of the Everyman Wodehouse Prize and The Closed Circle. He has also published a biography of the novelist B.S. Johnson, which won the Orwell prize in 2005. He lives in London with his wife and two children.
Top customer reviews
Although I'd agree with other reviewers that is quite different from Coe's other books, one things remains true: he writes about the sense of time and place better than almost any other writer I can think of. With this one, he's been compared in some reviews to Ian McEwan - unfair in my opinion - as Coe is a much better writer.
The book consists 95% of an old woman describing old photographs to a blind person. No, I'm not making that up.
When I told this to my wife, she swore out of exasperation.
Sometimes you get a few things happening – you know, that thing we sometimes call plot. But it's kinda rare. I gave up by page 96 (the "benefit of the doubt" cut off page). Put it this way – continental drift moves more quickly than this plot. Dialogue? You'll be lucky, sunshine.
The worst, worst, worst thing is that this "describing pictures" device feels like a writing prompt, which is to say, a way to encourage writing amongst newbie authors. You can imagine how the prompt read: "Take an old photograph found in a junk shop and describe it. Describe the characters and describe what they're doing within the scene."
NO NO NO NO NO. How did this book get published? If it hadn't been attached to Jonathan Coe I'm 100% sure it would have had the door slammed in its face at every agent and publisher. It wasted my time. It's the kind of book that literary reviews froth themselves up with because more fun can be had reviewing it than can be had actually reading it.
Jonathan Coe's work has been described as sharp, and cutting. If this book were a knife it would be dull – metaphorically and literally.
The blurb on the back intrigued me but turned out to be rather misleading. Coe's concept - a family story revealed through photographs and the taped narration of a dying woman - only promised to be half the story and I expected the remaining family members, briefly sketched, at the outset, to then become embroiled in the search for their missing relative. In fact this didn't happen, the taped narrative tells the whole story, which, although it wasn't what I expected, did give the book a nice unity and compactness.
One of the things which had really interested me was the fact that Coe decided to tell the story through a female voice, the deceased aunt. I am never really sure that male writers CAN convincingly create credible female consciousnesses but Coe pulled it off for me in this character. She notices, in the photographs, the things that women would notice, she digresses, she reflects, she revisits, yes, she rambles a bit at times, but I really felt that I was inside the thoughts of an authentic elderly woman.
The title of the novel is intriguing and is only barely justified by a rather tortuous and self-conscious explantion in the book. I got the impression that this had been 'worked up' in order to validate its place on the front cover. The significance of the rain BEFORE it falls is that while diaster and disappointment may hover and threaten (like rain) to deluge us, the period in the interim is an opportunity to enjoy its absence. Put more simply, grasp hold of happiness while you can; we all know that the window of opportunity is small.
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