To celebrate Wenlock Books reaching the age of 21 there is a year-long buffet of events. One of the recent celebrations was a visit by esteemed author Jonathon Coe. Jonathon read from his novel, The Rain before it falls, as well as doing an interview and answering questions from the audience.
The novel is based in Much Wenlock. Although this is his eighth published novel, it is in fact his first. It is not surprising then that whilst working on it he felt a strong sense of going back to the kind of writer he was and the kind of writing he did. In the late 1980’s every idea for the book was forged. However, at that point he did not feel mature or technically confident enough to tackle the ambitious and complex narrative which spans the central character’s life from 5 years old to 73. Jonathon adds, “I really enjoyed being a 73 year old lesbian. I felt more at home with that character than any other.”
So why Much Wenlock? It was when he first moved down to London that he watched Gone to Earth, a film based on local writer Mary Webb’s Novel. His homesickness for Shropshire replayed itself over and over until the video was jittery. Some of these freeze-frames make it in to the book, as photographs from his own family archive. In fact, the extract he read is based on an image from the film which was projected onto the wall of The Edge. Much of the film however was actually shot in California. So perhaps (even unintentionally) this is his way of bringing Gone to Earth back home.
After the reading was over, in true birthday style, everyone left with a goody bag with a signed copy of the book. It is a fascinating read and would have no less relevance to us if it was set in California. You must stop reading this blog now. Ring Wenlock Books up. Say: “One copy of The Rain Before it Falls please”. Then clear your weekend schedule and do nothing else but lay on the sofa reading it.
Anna Steward (for Wenlock Books)