Dan Sandman

34: Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

In Autobiography, Books, Fiction, Non-Fiction on 22/08/2014 at 12:00 pm

Cider with Rosie by Laurie LeeOne hundred years ago, at the start of World War One, Laurie Lee (1914 – 1997) was born. His life is cataloged in a series of three well-loved autobiographies, of which this is first. Cider with Rosie (1959) is a skillful evocation of childhood and youth, at times poetic and at times witty. Although it certainly is not a history book, any interested reader will be transported to the start of the twentieth century, and will catch a glimpse of what life may have been like in those times.

The story is set in a remote Cotswold village called Slad. The village is full of strange characters and sometimes terrible things happen to the people of Slad. Laurie is growing up in a large family, his heroic mother looking after many siblings and half-siblings, whilst his absent father is never seen. It is not the easiest of starts for the creative child, but it is a wonderful life bursting with smells and the beauty of the Gloucestershire countryside; a sensuous and undiscovered place full of mystery and wonder. Whereas critics might say that any autobiography, especially one set in an obscure part of England, is a self-indulgent idea, it can be argued that society needs books that deal deeply with all aspects of human life, we need personal stories to be tolled. Besides, the strength of this work is clearly in the prose itself which is bursting with imagery.

I like this book. Laurie Lee has an artists’ eye for detail and a musician’s ear for word sounds. I think this is the English language at its finest, each sentence richly working its way toward each paragraph, towards each chapter. If you take any chapter in this book and read it in isolation, it will stand alone as a unique short story – the writing is that good.

Highly recommended to those who like words.


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