The Rain Before it Falls by Jonathan Coe
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 niece, Gill, plays the tapes in hopes of locating this unwitting heir, she instead hears a family saga swathed in betrayal: the story of how Beatrix conceived a fraught bloodline that culminated in tragedy, its chief victim being her own granddaughter. Rosamond explores the ties that bound these generations together and shaped her experience all along-
A portrait of motherhood and family secrets.
This book is a story told through describing old photographs, their content and context, by an old lady just before she commits suicide. The photographs are a good way to move this story on, although it is being told to a blind girl who is the granddaughter of the narrator’s cousin. If this all sounds a bit complex, it is.
The family relations are fraught through all the generations, with very dysfunctional sets of parents and dreadful relationships. All the generations of the family seem to have a lot of anger and sadness. This makes for quite a miserable book which is however very hard to put down because you are waiting for something more momentous to be revealed, but it just doesn’t happen.
There is a very strange tangent about the cousin Beatrix changing her name and becoming a saintly worker in Canada, apparently loved by everyone, which is so strange as she was a bitch of a mother to her first daughter and took advantage of her cousin Rosamond for years. There is no satisfactory information given for this change of name and character and it doesn’t fit in well with the rest of the story. There is also a sense of let down at the end, I wont give it away, but there is not a bit of happiness anywhere. Even Gill who was only given the taped story to pass on had problems with her marriage and a daughter who has a broken relationship at the end. What a miserable lot.
I read this book because I do admire the writer, and the prose and gentle narration are very stylish and easy to read, but it was all a bit too pointless and miserable for me.