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Monday, 29 February 2016

2016 CLASSICS CHALLENGE: CIDER WITH ROSIE


Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee
My rating: ☆☆☆☆

Cider with Rosie is a wonderfully vivid memoir of childhood in a remote Cotswold village, a village before electricity or cars, a timeless place on the verge of change. Growing up amongst the fields and woods and characters of the place, Laurie Lee depicts a world that is both immediate and real and belongs to a now-distant past. [blurb from Goodreads]

When I discovered this classic:
I'm not actually sure when I discovered Cider With Rosie. I have a vague recollection of the title floating around the periphery of my brain for a while before I saw this cover in a bookshop and decided that I absolutely had to have it. I am a cover-buyer and I'm so not ashamed of that.

Why I chose to read it:
I'd put it on my wishlist after seeing this beautiful Vintage edition and I was lucky enough to receive it for Christmas last year and knew that I wanted to read it sooner rather than later. After reading A Month in the Country last month, I was in the mood for more countryside nostalgia so decided to pick it up.

What makes it a classic:
Cider With Rosie is a nostalgic snapshot of a place and time on the verge of indescribable change and yet it remains somehow timeless. It captures the essence of childhood and countryside living that is still relevant today, almost 100 years later.

What I thought of this classic:
I think I went into Cider With Rosie expecting a lot and although I didn't love it like I thought I would, it was still a really pleasant and enjoyable read. Each chapter was thematic rather than chronological; this added to the sense of nostalgia and allowed me as a reader to be completely submerged into the book's idyllic rural world. As well as being beautifully lyrical, Lee's descriptive passages were so rich and intense that I could almost picture his childhood kitchen, dappled with dusty beams of sunlight and see the lush, green Slad valley, dotted with cottages and farms.

Even though Lee was growing up almost 100 years ago and much has changed since then, Cider With Rosie still captures the essential essence of childhood. As I grew up in a rural village before computers were very common, I found that I could actually relate to a lot of Lee's childhood experiences and feelings, particularly the focus on nature and the seasons:
'The seasons of my childhood seemed (of course) so violent, so intense and true to their nature, that they have become for me ever since a reference of perfection whenever such names are mentioned [...] in those days winter and summer dominated our every action, broke into our houses, conscripted our thoughts, ruled our games, and ordered our lives.'
Lee's recollections of childhood games, sibling relationships and village festivals bring me right back to my childhood of endless imaginary games and battling with and reveling in the seasons. Although it seems like it was a whirlwind of years, back then, when everything was before us, the days seem to stretch out forever and Lee's slow-paced reminiscences brought that all back for me.
It was nice to be able to dip in and out of the book, taking a chapter at a time, and it's shorter length (just over 200 pages) makes Cider With Rosie the perfect light escape to a simpler time.

Will it stay a classic?
Most definitely, with a number of television, radio and stage adaptations Cider With Rosie is not only fondly-remembered but it is being brought to life and exposed to new audiences over and over again.

Who I'd recommend it to:
Fans of location-based memoirs, fans of the rural idyll, people who like heavily descriptive prose (think of The Great Gatsby or the Brontës) or the British countryside.

The 2016 Classics Challenge is hosted by the lovely Stacey of Pretty Books and you can find out more about it here.

Have you read Cider With Rosie? What did you think?

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