Forgotten Classics: “Cider With Rosie”

September 15, 2008 at 3:44 pm | Posted in Forgotten Classics, Memoir | Leave a comment

Cider With Rosie is the first of Laurie Lee’s several autobiographies.  First published in 1959, Lee writes about his childhood in rural 1920s Britain, which was so preindustrial as to be essentially medieval.  His musings on the countryside and his neighbors have a charm that is somewhat counterbalanced by his remembrance of poverty and a certain amount of violence.  Lee documents the advent of the 20th century on his village, and what happens afterward, reminiscent of The Education of Henry Adams when Adams says he still felt like an 18th century person as an adult.

What’s refreshing about Cider With Rosie is that it was written before the current trend of the pity-party memoir.  Lee reports frankly on his experiences and his memories dating back to three or four years of age.  (I can remember a great deal from being two, myself).  He lived a level of poverty that would curl your hair, and was often very ill, yet he seemed to feel his childhood was happy.  It’s a perspective modern memoirists would do well to examine.

This book has gone through many editions.  The one I read, The Illustrated Cider With Rosie, includes photographs of the author and his family, and period paintings and scrapbook clip art.

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