Picks and Pans Review: The Rain Before It Falls

updated 03/10/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 03/10/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Jonathan Coe |

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REVIEWED BY KYLE SMITH

FICTION

In modern day England, a childless, 73-year-old woman named Rosamond dies, possibly by suicide. But she leaves behind a series of audiotapes intended for Imogen, a mysterious blind girl the family hasn't seen in years. In the tapes she describes a series of photographs spanning a lifelong friendship with her free-spirited cousin Beatrix. As they grow up, something comes between them, and Coe painstakingly builds a psychological mystery around what went wrong, evoking the suspense and dread of books such as Ian McEwan's Atonement. This brief novel makes an emotionally overwhelming case that within ordinary women's lives there are profound reserves of beauty and despair, crumbled hopes and the purest love.

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