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Thread: Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee

  1. #1

    Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee

    “It has got a marvellous morning freshness – there is hardly a sentence in it that does not set the senses of touch and smell, as well as sight and hearing, tingling.”
    Daily Mail.

    “It sings in the memory.” Sunday Times.


    I’ve got to admit I came to this little book wanting a bit of nostalgic, rural escapism (don’t ask) and I wasn’t at all disappointed. It does all of that brilliantly, but what I wasn’t at all expecting was the realistic harshness of village life as well – the frankness and humour in which Laurie Lee details his memoir of 1920s village life. It was soon clear that this was not just going to be a poetic, rose-tinted piece of nostalgia at all, but actually something much more rounded.

    You get a progression of Laurie growing up, his school life, his home life, brothers and sisters – his mad mother etc, but it at no time tries to be a novel if you know what I mean? Not that it loses anything for that mind. What you have here is a collection of sketches of rural life which I found simply absorbing. Yes it is southern England, Cotswolds, but it could just about be anywhere:

    Through the dead hours of the morning, though the long afternoons, we chanted away at our tables. Passers-by could hear our rising voices in our bottle-up room on the bank; “Twelve-inches-one-foot. Three-feet-make-a-yard. Fourteen-pounds-make-a-stone. Eight-stone-a-hundred-weight.” We absorbed these figures as primal truths declared by some ultimate power. Unhearing, unquestioning, we rocked to our chanting, hammering the gold nails home. “Twice-two-are-four. One-God-is-Love. One-Lord-is-King. One-King-is-George. One-George-is-Fifth…”So it was always; had been, would be for ever; we asked no questions; we didn’t hear what we said; yet neither did we ever forget it.
    There’s no wastage in this book either. It’s littered with vivid scenes of life on just about every page, drawn in a loving prose style that’s quite attractive indeed.

    They hitched up their stockings, patted their hats, and went running up the bank. This was the hour when walkers and bicyclists flowed down the long hills to Stroud, when the hooters called through the morning dews and factories puffed out their plumes. From each crooked corner of Stroud’s five valleys girls were running to shops and looms, with sleep in their eyes, and eggy cheeks, and in their ears night voices fading.
    As I say though don’t be fooled into thinking this book is just a light-hearted piece. There’s plenty of harsh reality in there too, often spiced with black humour.

    The wet winter days seemed at times unending, and quite often they led to self-slaughter. Girls jumped down wells, young men cut their veins, spinsters locked themselves up and starved. There was something spendthrift about such gestures, a scorn of life and complaining, and those who took to them where never censured, but were spoken about in a special voice as though their actions raised them above the living and defeated the misery of the world. Even so such outbursts were often contagious and could lead to waves of throat-cutting; indeed, during one particularly gloomy season even the coroner did himself in.
    If I had to rate the book on a scale of one to five cider apples, I would probably put it somewhere between four and five. It just lacks a little something to be a truly great piece (maybe the prose is forced just a little in places if I am being really harsh, and I would have wanted more of the Rosie affair) but overall, it is a very solid work and I will be reading it again for sure, sooner rather than later. Definitely recommended.

  2. #2
    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    A very nice review Neely.

    I haven't read it but it is well known and better, I should think, than it's sequel, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, that I read years ago, and is set in Spain at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.
    "L'art de la statistique est de tirer des conclusions erronèes a partir de chiffres exacts." Napoléon Bonaparte.

    "Je crois que beaucoup de gens sont dans cet état d’esprit: au fond, ils ne sentent pas concernés par l’Histoire. Mais pourtant, de temps à autre, l’Histoire pose sa main sur eux." Michel Houellebecq.

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    Registered User prendrelemick's Avatar
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    Good review of an old favourite.

    I found it like eating too much rich food, gorgeous, but eventually you hanker after plainer fare. That said, there are moments that are simply sublime. The Parochial Church Tea episode is probably my favourite piece of writing anywhere.
    Last edited by prendrelemick; 02-06-2011 at 03:36 PM.

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    Our wee Olympic swimmer Janine's Avatar
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    Here is an excerpt....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gq4xLtYKwjs

    I would love to read the book. Thanks for the review Neely. I think I will have to check it out soon.
    "It's so mysterious, the land of tears."

    Chapter 7, The Little Prince ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

  5. #5
    Thaks, great stuff, great link. I didn't know there was a sequel either. Yes I agree Pren, it has very rich prose style, though I was quite happy for that as I had a mind to it. Glad I stumbled upon Paulclem's recommendation, cheers.

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    TobeFrank Paulclem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neely View Post
    Thaks, great stuff, great link. I didn't know there was a sequel either. Yes I agree Pren, it has very rich prose style, though I was quite happy for that as I had a mind to it. Glad I stumbled upon Paulclem's recommendation, cheers.
    Thanks Neely. It was one of those books often remembered and referred to. His travelogues, as Brian has mentioned, are also very good. Cider With Rosie is my wife's favourite book.

    There was something - perhaps last year - about the lady who was Rosie. I'll look it up and post a link if I can find it.

    No I got it wrong - she's still with us - though it was 2004, so perhaps not!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/gloucestershire...th_rosie.shtml

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Emil Miller View Post
    A very nice review Neely.

    I haven't read it but it is well known and better, I should think, than it's sequel, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, that I read years ago, and is set in Spain at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.
    Just to bump this up because I am currently about halfway through As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and it is very enjoyable indeed. It's so lazy and carefree, it captures the heat of Spain beautifully, another highly recommended piece.

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    Metamorphosing Pensive's Avatar
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    Good job with the review!
    You have at least managed to capture my interest into trying this one!
    I sang of leaves, of leaves of gold, and leaves of gold there grew.

  9. #9
    Great stuff. I have just ordered the third book A Moment of War. I love Laurie Lee's writing, it's a wonderful lazy poetic prose style. I'll type out a few selections of As I Walked Out... later maybe. Delicious.

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neely View Post
    Great stuff. I have just ordered the third book A Moment of War. I love Laurie Lee's writing, it's a wonderful lazy poetic prose style. I'll type out a few selections of As I Walked Out... later maybe. Delicious.
    Just finished A Moment of War today. It's an astonishing read. However, some International Brigaders thought it was all fiction, including Bill Alexander who was the last commander of the British part of the brigade. I don't know what to make of this. There is documentary proof that Laurie Lee crossed the Pyrenees and joined the International Brigade. However, Laurie Lee had epilepsy, which he thought he had got over, but hadn't, and was, therefore, no good for combat. (SPOILERS) Seems Lee was more at risk of being shot by his own side. I thought some of it did read like fiction, especially the bits with the young girl who killed her guardian. Still, I think Laurie Lee did have a way with the ladies in his younger days, so I would not like to say it definitely was not true. I doubt Laurie Lee would have lied in the chapter about the meal they had cooked for them by the two sisters, nor about the radio programme they transmitted from Madrid. Maybe it was the skirmish at Teruel that is the most contentious bit because Lee wrote that he shot someone there. However, the way Lee desribes the lead up to that skirmish, a commander such as Bill Alexander would not have been aware of Lee's involvement. I suppose no one can say. The thing with Laurie Lee's style of writing is you take it for granted that it is not historically accurate reportage. His style is too lyrical. Apparently Lee had his diaries stolen on a trip to Spain in 1969, so had to write from memory. A Moment of War was not published until 1991. I suppose, being cynical, you could say he waited for most of the witnesses to die. On the other hand, Lee was no workaholic. I gather he liked a drink or two.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Who else writes like laurie Lee. ..love his style

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    Registered User ralphboats's Avatar
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    read this one at school in the seventies all those years ago remember laurie lee on tv in England pebble mill at one and the guy dropped the first letter of the word hitler you know that old English thing class and so on dropping letters so youre seen as Robbie Williams and not Sebastian coe and theyre saying look here old turnip you cant get a drink using the savoy coming on all Robbie Williams and all

  13. #13
    I love Laurie Lee so much

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