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The Rain Before It Fallsby Jonathan Coe
Synopses & Reviews
Following The Rotters' Club and its sequel, The Closed Circle, Jonathan Coe now offers his first stand-alone novel in a decade, a story of three generations of women whose destinies reach from the English countryside in World War II to London, Toronto, and southern France at the turn of the new century.
Evacuated to Shropshire during the Blitz, eight-year-old Rosamond forged a bond with her cousin Beatrix that augured the most treasured and devastating moments of her life. She recorded these memories sixty years later, just before her death, on cassettes she bequeathed to a woman she hadn't seen in decades. When her beloved niece, Gill, plays the tapes in hopes of locating this unwitting heir, she instead hears a family saga swathed in promise and betrayal: the story of how Beatrix, starved of her mother's affection, conceived a fraught bloodline that culminated in heart-stopping tragedy — its chief victim being her own granddaughter. And as Rosamond explores the ties that bound these generations together and shaped her experience all along, Gill grows increasingly haunted by how profoundly her own recollections — not to mention the love she feels for her grown daughters, listening alongside her — are linked to generations of women she never knew.
A stirring, masterful portrait of motherhood and family secrets, The Rain Before It Falls is also a meditation on the tapestries we weave out of the past, whether transcendent or horrific. Hailed by the Los Angeles Times for his "sustained, intricate brilliance," Jonathan Coe once again proves himself "an artist of character and of his characters' stories," here more astutely than ever before.
"In the latest from acclaimed London novelist Coe (The Rotter's Club), the story of two cousins' friendship is keyed to a hatred that is handed down from mother to daughter across generations, as in a Greek tragedy. Evacuated from London to her aunt and uncle's Shropshire farm, Rosamond bonds with her older cousin, Beatrix, who is emotionally abused by her mother. Beatrix grows up to abuse her daughter, Thea (in one unforgettable scene, Beatrix takes a knife and flies after Thea after Thea has ruined a blouse), with repercussions that reach the next generation. All of this is narrated in retrospect by an elderly Rosamond into a tape recorder: she is recording the family's history for Imogene, Beatrix's granddaughter, who is blind, and whom Rosamond hasn't seen in 20 years. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Rosamond's fundamental flaw and limit is her decency, a quality Coe weaves beautifully into the Shropshire and London settings — along with violence. Through relatively narrow lives on a narrow isle, Coe articulates a fierce, emotional current whose sweep catches the reader and doesn't let go until the very end." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Coe is a dexterous writer who easily pulls you into Rosamund's spellbinding story. Rosamund's narrative is laced with dark hints of tragedy, and like Gill, you find yourself racing to the end." Seattle Times
"Like all of the author's previous seven novels, The Rain Before It Falls presents the reader with characters whose impassioned selfishness is as disturbing as it is bleak....The result is his tensest and most affecting work." The Boston Globe
"Coe is masterful at women's voices, and mining the richness of a marginal life. His single misstep is a chapter, in italics, inside the head of Imogene's mother — a breach in his lovely structure and satisfying tale, suited perfectly to a late afternoon in winter." Cleveland Plain Dealer
"A triumph...from its cryptically beautiful title to its subtly riveting narrative, from its amazing narrative voice to its satisfying and moving conclusion." The San Francisco Chronicle
"Dignified and sure....Skillfully layered and plotted." The Atlantic Monthly
"[A] peculiar book, to put it kindly; it is itself a failure, in more brutal terms. It's peculiar because it's hard to understand why Coe, an accomplished novelist, did (it seems) everything in his power to distance his readers from the characters and situations he wishes to portray." Erica Wagner, The New York Times Book Review
"The novel's frame...is neither far-fetched nor especially new...but here it lends itself to an efflorescence of description and explanation that overwhelms Coe's spare, precise prose." Los Angeles Times
Following The Rotters' Club and its sequel, The Closed Circle, Coe now offers his first stand-alone novel in a decade, a story of three generations of women whose destinies reach from the English countryside in World War II to London, Toronto, and France at the turn of the new century.
About the Author
Jonathan Coe's awards include the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger, the Prix Médicis Étranger, and, for The Rotters' Club, the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize. He lives in London with his wife and their two daughters.
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