I picked this poetic travelogue off the shelf last week to reread in preparation for a trip to Andalusia next month. Here, Laurie Lee continues the story he started in Cider with Rosie
, describing how he left his Cotswold village at the age of nineteen to walk to London, from where he took a boat to Spain. Over the course of a year, he walks through the heart of that country, from Vigo in the north-west to the south coast. That year (1935-6) sees the start of the Spanish Civil War, which leads to his journey being cut short when he is evacuated by a British warship. The book ends with his return to Spain the following year.
Lee is a poetic writer with an eye for detail that unfussily evokes a time and place, for example (p119): "Somewhere here, in a barn, under a roof crusted with swallows' nests, a mother and daughter cooked me a supper of eggs, while a horse watched me eating, chickens walked on the table, and an old man in the hay lay dying." In an age where travel has become commoditized, this is a book to remind you of the exhilaration of the open road, of meeting strangers and viewing far-away places with an unjaundiced eye.