Mr. Lee’s memoir is set in the Cotswolds at the beginning of the 20th century following the end of WWI. The family has just moved and little Laurie is quite frightened by his new home, but quickly overcomes his initial fears thanks to his doting step sisters.
We follow Laurie as a toddler and young schoolboy into teen angst and eventual manhood and get an insider’s view of village life and those that thrive and those that fail.
Laurie only reveals his childish thoughts so we don’t get too much insight into his adult mind, but he clearly cherished his thrifty, albeit loving upbringing.
Mrs. Lee was the most interesting character. A single mother raising 8 children; 3 she bore and 5 born by her absent husband’s deceased wife. A very bright student, she was born at a time that did not place much value on education for women and married a widow who wasn’t much for fatherhood or marriage. Her positive, though often scattered, outlook kept the family going and all eight children were treated equally. Her free spirit was evident, but she squashed her true desires and focused on family.
The Uncles chapter introduces Laurie’s maternal uncles, who were all as interesting as their sister. Charlie, the forrester was the rugged one, while Tom was the ladies man and Ray built railroads, was tattooed and drank heavily. Sid was the moody bus driver who also enjoyed liquor and regularly threatened suicide.
Though she tortured our patience and exhausted our nerves, she was, all the time building up around us, by the unconscious revelations of her loves, an interpretation of man and the natural world so unpretentious and easy that we never recognized it then, yet so true that we never forgot it.
Nothing now that I ever see that has the edge of gold around it — the change of a season, a jewelled bird in a bush, the eyes of orchids, water in the evening, a thistle, a picture, a poem — but my pleasure pays some brief duty to her. She tried me at times to the top of my bent. But I absorbed from birth, as now I know, the whole earth through her jaunty spirit.
I say all this by way of hoping that the lies I’ve made up to get from one poor truth to another may mean something–may even mean something most particular to you, my eccentric, patient, scrupulous reader, wiling to make so much of so little, more patient and more respectful of life, of a life, that the author you’re allowing for a moment to exist yet again.
Such a night of fever slowed everything down as though hot rugs had been stuffed into a clock.
Our village was clearly no pagan paradise, neither were we conscious of showing tolerance. It was just the way of it.
Cider with Mr. Lee would have to be of the “hard” kind. Perhaps we could discuss the villagers more and how and where he did his writing. I’d definitely have to get him “woke” as his encounters with Jo would be classified as sexual assault today and his casual involvement with a planned rape made me squirm.
My rating for Cider with Rosie is a 7 out of 10.
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Next up , Charles Dickens’ Bleak House…
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