Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee
It is very easy to put down one Laurie Lee memoir and immediately pick up another. The sequence, however, was badly chosen…..I should really have started with Cider with Rosie and then moved on to As I walked out one midsummer morning, but the sequence mysteriously chose itself. The reality is I found an old copy of the former lurking on my bookshelves, and beginning the read was little more than a knee-jerk reaction. It was easy to do……
No doubt you will have already read Cider with Rosie, perhaps several times. You may have studied it for an exam, or it may simply be a long-forgotten read from you past. Unlike many memoirs, Lee not only captivates us with the actual story of his early years, but he uses a language that carries us along with his breadth of vocabulary, colourful local idiom, and a poetic prose that is a joy to read.
Born in 1914, just as the Great War was beginning, his mother moved the whole family to Slad, a small village in Gloucestershire. I say ‘the mother’, because the father had walked out leaving his wife to raise both his families (including the step children from a previous relationship). Lee grew up in a rambling untidy cottage with his 6 siblings, survived near-death experiences with bouts of illness, got up to all the mischievous things boys get up to, had his first sexual encounter in a hay loft (with Rosie, of course), until he packed his knapsack and began his long walk across Spain.
Through Lee’s childhood eyes, we not only see how he progresses from an age of innocence to a fully matured, sentient adult, but we also see the country (indeed the world) move from an age of rustic simplicity, poverty, disease and suffering, to an approaching era of rapid industrial and technological change, that would change the contours of the landscape for ever.