The Rain Before It Falls


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First published: 2007

Print ISBN: 9780241967751

Price: £8.99

The Rain Before It Falls


To the west of Newport in Shropshire lies a village called Cherrington. This was where my maternal grandparents retired in the 1960s, and where I spent some of the happiest times of my childhood.

After my grandfather died of lung cancer in 1985, I began to wonder how I could memorialise this Shropshire part of my family history in fiction. I conceived of a series of interlinked stories and novellas and novels which might have the general title An Easterly Wind. In the mid-1980s I made some early, very fragmentary notes towards this project: I imagined a novel which would begin with a family party, in the garden of a house on the outskirts of Birmingham, where the attention of the guests would be drawn to a young, fair-haired girl who would be blind, and whose relationship to the other family members would not at first be understood.

The idea was abandoned for a while as I worked on my other novels. Then, in 1990, I was commissioned to write a short story for a Christmas issue of the (now defunct) newspaper The Sunday Correspondent. I wrote a story called ‘Ivy and Her Nonsense’ which took place over Christmas in two Shropshire houses which were closely based on my grandparents’ and my great uncle’s. The paper’s literary editor didn’t like the story and it wasn’t published – at least not until 1995, when an expanded version appeared in a boxed set of ten short stories published to celebrate Penguin’s 60th anniversary. (It can now be read in the collection Loggerheads and Other Stories.) This story sowed the seeds for The Rain Before It Falls, by introducing the characters of Gill and her brother David, and the Christmas party which it describes is precisely revisited in the fifteenth section of the novel.

Apart from this, I’ve discussed the various sources of inspiration for The Rain Before It Falls many times in interviews. Among other things, of course, it is meant to be a sustained hommage to the novels of Rosamond Lehmann – the clue is in the main character’s name – which I first encountered in the 1980s, and which I’ve written about in this Guardian article.

The novel also owes a big debt of inspiration to Theo Travis, whose album of solo, multitracked flute improvisations Slow Life was playing on my iPod during much of the writing.

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