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text 2014-11-21 06:53
Unsentimental memoir
Cider With Rosie - Laurie Lee

Until I took this on holiday with me, I had only vaguely seen a rose-tinted TV adaptation.  It completely prejudiced my view - I didn't want to read some sentimental crap about village life in the early 20th century that would fit well with John Major's warm spinsters and beer on bicycles, or whatever it was he went on about it.  Various different editions with soft-focus covers featuring pretty maids of the fields and lusty youths didn't help.


Then I saw a copy of Red Sky at Sunrise, containing Cider with Rosie, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, and A Moment of War, in the bookshop and thought, fuck it, everyone else has bloody well read this, so will I.  I was pleasantly surprised.  


The book depicts Laurie's early life in a Cotswolds village without any sentiment at all, really.  People are cold, hungry, impoverished, but their lives are lived with a flourish of character. 


The title doesn't refer to a young Laurie having a drink with an ancient pagan wise woman of the village, as I'd always suspected and rejected with a resounding "Yuck," but his awakening sexuality with the rather-more-worldly-and-knowing Rosie of the title.


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text 2014-09-01 07:59
August's highlights
Nyctophobia - Christopher Fowler
Cider With Rosie - Laurie Lee
At Swim-Two-Birds - Flann O'Brien
Elective Affinities - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,David Constantine

August wasn't as great as July book- and weatherwise. I read quite a few 4-star-books but only one five-star-book.


Nyctophobia was definitely my highlight this month. Very creepy and so exciting!


Among the other books I would like to mention three - all quite different in their genres and topics:


Cider with Rosie is a lovely childhood memoir set shortly after WWI.


At Swim-Two-Birds is difficult to describe: it is a weird mix of genres and the characters of teh story within the story come to live, walk into another story and then come back changed into the first story. It's kind of weird but written very well.


The Elective Affinities is a lovestory set in the late 18th/early 19th century. A couple in their middle-ages take into their house two single friends and all the relationships get mixed up. This might have been a five-star-read if the middle-part hadn't been a bit long and boring.


Even though August wasn't really bad I'm having high hopes for September (also weatherwise - it couldn't possibly get any worse!)


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review 2014-08-04 07:41
Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee
Cider With Rosie - Laurie Lee

Cider with Rosie is a childhood/youth memoir by Laurie Lee. Lee grew up in a small village in Gloucestershire around the time of the end of the Great War. He was born into a family with many children and was raised by his mother and older sisters (his father stayed in London after the war and did not return).
What sets Cider with Rosie apart from other (childhood) memoirs is the way it is structured: instead of using a chronological order, Laurie Lee groups his memories into thematic chapters. There are chapters on school, his mother, the neighbours etc. I especially liked the chapter on his uncles who are very original.
Other things that make the book special are the beautiful language Laurie Lee uses in contrast with how people talk and the perspective from which it is told: other memoirs likes Angela's Ashes are told by an adult but through the eyes of a child; things aren't commented or critiziced but told as they are. In Cider with Rosie the memories are told through adult eyes and events are sometimes put into a negative light (e.g. the attempted rape). This gives the book a different tone and doesn't romantize what happened.
Cider with Rosie is a book well worth reading as it also gives a glance at village life as it doesn't exist anymore.

(I received a free digital copy via netgalley)

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text 2014-06-26 13:00
Happy birthday Laurie Lee
Cider With Rosie - Laurie Lee

Today is the centenary of the birth of Laurie Lee. 


He's best known for his autobiographical trilogy, Cider With Rosie, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, and A Moment of War. The first of these is the book that made him famous, and if you've not read it, it's the story of Lee's childhood in the English countryside in the 1920s. I read it at school, and loved it. 


The second book tells how he left the village and travelled across Spain, and the third is about his experiences with the International Brigade fighting against Franco's Nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War. 


Cider With Rosie was published in 1959 and its success meant that Lee could give up work and become a full-time writer. He was also able to buy a house in his childhood village and he remained there until his death in 1997. 


And I love this little story about him that I found on Wikipedia. 


In the 1960s, Laurie Lee and his wife returned to Slad to live near his childhood home, where they remained for the rest of his life. Lee revealed on the BBC1 Wogan Show in 1985 that he was frequently asked by children, visiting Slad as part of their O-Level study of Cider with Rosie, enquiring "where Laurie Lee was buried" assuming that the author was dead.


Updated to add a piece written about him on the BBC website




Laurie Lee


Laurie Lee (1914-1997)

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text 2013-06-25 16:29
Cider with Rosie.


'Cider with Rosie' was, for me, one of the most evocative books I have ever read. The book is about Laurie Lee's youth in a rural Gloucestershire village after the First World War. Lee recounts a bygone age, where the rural classes were still at the mercy of the seasons and of local superstitions. It is a book of homemade wines, languid summers and rural poverty. You are entirely drawn into the novel from the start by the incredibly insular surroundings of the cramped cottage and the Cotswold valley in which the village sits. 

'Summer, June Summer,with the green back on earth and the whole world unlocked and seething- like winter, it came suddenly and one knew it in bed, almost before waking up; with cuckoos and pigeons hollowing the woods since daylight and the chirping of tits in the pear-blossom.' p.159



The novel is an unrestrained feast for the senses but it is not this alone which charmed me. I live in Worcestershire, a county in Britain which neighbours Gloucestershire and so, inevitably, there was much in the 'Cider with Rosie' which resonated with me. Being awoken my birdsong from May til August, apple-green spring and unrelenting July sunshine where, it seemed, absolutely nothing seemed to happen but summer. It was not only an ode to the countryside though; there was so much of life, death, youth and age to be found too. A vivid recollection of a way of life largely unknown to us now. 

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