I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Before the Rain: A Memoir of Love and Revolution by Luisita López Torregrosa
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on August 7, 2012
Source: TLC Book Tours
vIn a voice haunting and filled with longing, Before the Rain tells the story of love unexpected, its fragile bounds and subtle perils. As a newspaper editor in the ’80s, Luisita Torregrosa lived her career. Enter Elizabeth, a striking, reserved, and elusive writer with whom Torregrosa falls deeply in love. Their story—irresistible romance, overlapping ambitions, and fragile union—unfolds as the narrative shifts to the Philippines and the fall of Ferdinand Marcos. There, on that beautiful, troubled island, the couple creates a world of their own, while covering political chaos and bloody upheavals. What was effortless abroad becomes less idyllic when they return to the United States, and their ending becomes as surprising and revealing as their beginning. Torregrosa captures the way love transforms those who experience it for an unforgettable, but often too brief, time. This book is distinguished not only by its strong, unique, and conflicted heroines, but also by Torregrosa’s lyrical portrait of the Philippines and the even more exotic heart of intimacy.
First Sentence: “In the years since that first letter came, postmarked New Delhi and written on pale lavender Claridges Hotel stationery, I have begun this story a hundred times, and each time I was afraid.”
Having completed Before the Rain, I find myself with very little to say, a rather rare occurrence for me. Speechlessness, of course, can be the result of many emotions, too fraught by the impact of the tale or too bored to care. Unfortunately, my reactions more closely resemble the latter.
What drew me to this book was both the lgbt element and the historical aspect. Coming into it, I knew practically nothing about the history of the Philippines, and learning about that history as a backdrop for a touching romance sounded like perfection. Having read the last page of this memoir, though, I do not feel that I know much more than I did when I started, other than now knowing a couple of names of political figures.
This autobiography should, more accurately, be subtitled simply A Memoir of Love, as there is little of revolution. The focus lies almost entirely upon the relationship between Luisita and Elizabeth. While that’s fine, the book’s description prepared me for something with a broader scope. History receives only the barest treatment, insomuch as it separated the two lovers, as both are reporters and had to travel to cover various events.
I would expect, though, that I would have a very strong picture of Luisita and Elizabeth in my head, since they are the focus, that I would have a good sense of their bond. Alas, I do not. I feel like Torregrosa keeps the audience at a distance from them. She clues us in on the big events of their romance, but does not let us in on any of the small details that really make a life. For all that she is proudly discussing her lesbian relationship, I found it surprising that we never get any sense of their sexual life at all. For all the talk of their intense passion, only a couple of kisses and hugs are mentioned. This made for a disconnect between what she claimed and what I was actually sensing through her words.
I will say, however, that the writing is incredibly beautiful. Torregrosa composes lovely sentences, and she has a unique flair for language. She puts her sentences together in ways I might never think to, slightly strangely, and coaxes a new and different beauty out of them.
For me, this memoir was vastly disappointing, but lovers of language largely for its own sake might find this more interesting than I did. I, personally, hoped to learn more about the author in reading a memoir, but left it with very little sense of Luisita herself.
“Elizabeth, who readily saw the things in me that were so much a part of her, too, had touched that sense of aloneness in me, had been drawn to it. I was dark and fierce and had a face of shadows and moods, a face that to her seemed ageless. I was the very thing that she wanted to avoid—chaos, intensity, a fall from grace. I was writing, passion, books, long drinks in the night.”