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Customer Review

on 25 February 2011
This was my first Jonathan Coe novel. Let me say straight away that his structure and style are very engaging and that this is a beautifully readable and enjoyable novel. I'll certainly be looking out for more of his books.
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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3.5 out of 5 stars