The Rain Before it Falls – Jonathan Coe
I had the good fortune to share a taxi ride from the airport into Dublin city centre with Mr. Coe last year when he came over for the Dublin Writer’s Festival to share the stage with Mr. Lloyd Jones and both were a pleasure to speak to.
This book tells the story of Rosamond, a woman born in 1930’s Britain, who survived through World War II and whose entire adult life was shaped by the summer spent with her country cousins during one summer in the forties when many British children were sent out of the cities for their own safety.
Her life is as told by her on a series of tapes in the day or two before her death, and I felt the excitement of her niece and two grand-nieces as they hurriedly tried to find the time to listen to all of the tapes together.
Rosamond, once engaged, never married, tells the tale of her broken engagement, the lesbian relationship with an almost stranger which broke the engagement and coloured the rest of her life, her subsequent attempts to recreate that relationship. Rosamond is on a quest for love through most of the book-when the love of her life leaves her she turns to looking our for her cousin’s daughter, even from afar, and later that girl’s daughter to whom the tapes are originally addressed.
I found the book sad but totally engrossing. Coe has written women so well, indeed there are almost no men in the book and those that are there are merely peripheral characters.
From other reviews I’ve read this is a complete departure from Jonathan Coe’s usual type of novel but I look forward to checking out his others in the future.