Cider With Rosie is a memoir of a country childhood. It begins in 1918 when on a June day the young Laurie Lee and his ramshackle family come to live in the Cotswolds village of Slad (only 40 miles down the road from me). The way of life described in the book has now vanished, and was in the process of vanishing as the author was living it. He describes his memories in a series of themed chapters, not strictly chronological, nor strictly accurate, evocative and bewitching, a prose poem without equal.
Laurie Lee was primarily a poet having already published three volumes of poetry by the time Cider With Rosie was published. It was the poetic quality of his prose which appealed to my teenage self and continues to delight me no matter how many times I read this book. Here is a short excerpt describing the incident which gives the book its title.
"The day Rosie Burdock decided to take me in hand was a motionless day of summer, creamy, hazy, and amber-coloured, with the beech trees standing in heavy sunlight as though clogged with wild wet honey."
From the chapter 'First Bite at the Apple'
'Clogged with wild wet honey', just gorgeous. If you like that then you must read Cider With Rosie because there is much more of the same. Also, do look up Laurie Lee's volumes of poetry. It's a pity there is no collected poetic works, I would have thought that an author's centenary was an excellent opportunity for one but it seems not.
The Sun My Monument 1944
The Bloom of Candles 1947
My Many-coated Man 1955
And for two examples of his poems look here and here
Incidentally if you like the poetry and prose of Laurie Lee then you are likely to be a fan also of Dylan Thomas who coincidentally was also born in one hundred years ago this year.
|Illustration of Granny Wallon making her wine by John Ward|
|The Lee's kitchen by John Ward|
|Wild flowers in a jam jar by John Ward|
|Cider With Cider With Rosie|
*Don't forget to check out what everyone else is reading this month over at The Year in Books.
* For non UK readers and those too young to remember, o levels (the o stood for ordinary) were the exams we took at 16 before GCSEs were introduced in 1988. They were harder than GCSEs. Yes, they were.