The Rain Before It Falls, by Jonathan Coe

Gill's aunt Rosamond dies, and when Gill goes to the house to clear up she finds a set of tapes and a letter, instructing her to get the tapes to Imogen, a girl that Gill vaguely remembers having seen many years ago. The tapes appear to have been recorded by Rosamond just before she died. Gill attempts, but fails, to find Imogen, and then, as instructed by the letter from her aunt, decides to listen to the tapes herself...

This is a nice book, although it feels a bit slight in comparison to Coe's recent novels. The story that Rosamond tells is moving and affecting, and very evocative, and the writing does have some moments that I felt are characteristically Coe: for example, when Gill finally decides to play the tape, the chapter ends:

It was the voice of Rosamond, alone in the sitting room of her bungalow in Shropshire, speaking into the microphone a few days before she died.

The voice said:

It's not just the cliffhanger, it's the feeling that you're privileged because you're about to be let in on something really special. A similar thing happens at the end, where there's a kind of House of Sleep style epilogue: when I realised that, I experienced a physical tingle.

But, it didn't quite affect me in the same way as some of his other books. I thought maybe this is because it largely covers a period in time that's unfamiliar to me - unlike What a Carve Up! (1980s) and The Rotters' Club (1970s). But then I suppose it's set in the same period as the first couple of Henry Pratt books, which I like, so maybe not. I didn't finish this book and immediately think "I've got to read it again": there was no major twist or revelation at the end that threw a different perspective on the rest of the story.

So a good book, and I will read it again, but on first reading, it's not as good as he can be.

Completed : 10-Jun-2008

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