Wednesday, September 05, 2007

the rain before it falls, by jonathan coe

Jonathan Coe's written output to date has established him, to my mind, as probably the funniest living British author outside of the inevitable Howard Jacobson, and his best novels, 'The House Of Sleep' and the wicked satire 'What a Carve Up!', are absolutely laden with hilarious observations and savage wit. Later books have adopted a less satirical and more nostalgic tone, but not by sacrificing the jokes.

In Coe's now novel, 'The Rain Before It Falls', however, Coe has done just that, and written a short, powerful and deeply serious meditation on that most essential of subjects - adults raising children. The book is built around a simple premise - the aged Rosamond, who has watched three generations of her family tear each other apart, sits alone in her flat with a bottle of whisky and a bottle of pills. Before she takes them, she sits in front of a tape recorder and describes, in careful detail, twenty family photographs for Imagon, a blind girl she has not seen for twenty years, but whose life, just like her mother and grandmother, is crucially intertwined with her own.

Coe's simple, weighty prose is, despite the difficult subject matter, a pleasure to read, shorn of jokes though it is. Like Iris Murdoch, he writes about plain life in such a way as to uncover painful and philosophical truths and affect the reader greatly. 'The Rain Before It Falls' is a sombre, delicately-wrought tragedy, and a fine read.

1 comment:

Jesus Bugs said...

Excellent! I didn't know he was working on a new book. Closed Circle didn't quite do it for me so hopefully this will signal a return to form.