RogerBW's Blog

Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee 18 August 2018

1959 reminiscence; Lee recalls his childhood in the 1920s, in a village in the Cotswolds. US vt Edge of Day.

But this is not an autobiography in the strict sense; its thirteen chapters are separated loosely by subject matter, but for the most part they are a recollection of impressions rather than of ordered events. It's clear to me that Lee wrote in part because people were forgetting how fast things had changed, and didn't know about:

a world of hard work and necessary patience, of backs bent to the ground, hands massaging the crops, of waiting on weather and growth; of villages like ships in the empty landscapes and the long walking distances between them; of white narrow roads, rutted by hooves and cartwheels, innocent of oil or petrol, down which people passed rarely, and almost never for pleasure, and the horse was the fastest thing moving.

It's not bucolic, though: there are loves and hatreds and suspicious strangers, and a mob of boys roving through the neighbourhood looking for trouble to cause. Some people read this book and find nostalgia for a simpler time, but I certainly wouldn't want to live there; it's not the technology per se, but the idea of a world and a mind bounded by the edge of the valley, with minimal education and few choices about what to do with your life unless you get up the gumption to leave, and criminality ignored because that's just what boys do.

The style is not the conventional narrative one might expect but rather something approaching blank verse; sometimes the recollections tumble over each other in long lists, and sometimes they slow down to allow the reader to get a bit of detail. Lee always gets the right word, even when it seems like the wrong one.

I suspect that what one gets out of this book depends on what one brings to it. It's awkward and spiky and does a decent job of recapturing the childish mind-set. I'm glad to have read it, but I'm unlikely to revisit it any time soon.

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  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 10:25pm on 18 August 2018

    This was my O level set book for English Literature. The result of that being I completely hated it by the time we had spent a year studying it, and I have deliberately avoided reading anything by the same author since. I got so sick and tired of analysing chapters of this book. There must be a better way to learn English Literature. However, studying Twelfth Night as our play did not put me off either that play or Shakespeare. Maye the bard is a better writer?

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