I was lucky enough recently to get an advance copy of Jonathan Coe’s upcoming novel The Rain Before It Falls (publishing this autumn in the UK and next year in the US).
Coe takes a rather B.S. Johnsonian conceit (90% of the book consists of words spoken into a cassette recorder by an old woman right before she dies, describing, in sequence, twenty photographs spanning several decades) and spins it into something quite magical: a delightfully middlebrow novel that’s also high art. And since it’s a story that’s largely concerned with memory, you get the most wonderful sensation when you finish reading it, as the details start to fade and you’re left with a few crystalline images and emotions, much like Rosamund at the very end of her life.
If you were pitching this story to a Hollywood type, you’d say “It’s like The House of Sleep, but without the jokes”. He’d look at you blankly. And that would be just fine. Because The House of Sleep without the jokes is a rare and beautiful thing.
Also, the cover for the UK edition (below) is beyond perfect.