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on 1 March 2004
What a marvellous book.
On the face of it a simple coming of age story, that of a young man leaving home to walk around Spain. A very layman's view of it, as this however is written for the poet inside us. Wonderful language for a long lost age where you really could abandon yourself completely and travel in its purest sense.
Beware though as this book may make you want to give it all up and set off with your knapsack
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on 6 November 2003
It's not often that a story grabs your attention straight away like this one did with me. On the face of it, a simple story about a young man setting off to find his fortune in a foreign land, the book has so much more. It's about youth and idealism, friendship, life on the road and the desire to just keep moving until you stop. And even though he obviously wrote it many years after making the trip (the emotions running through the tale are those of middle age not late teens), it hardly matters. Quite brilliant. Just like the 'sequel' A Rose for Winter.
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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.
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on 18 May 2000
its been many years since i read this book and just wish to agree with the above reviewer. This is a fantastic book, full of humour and evocative storytelling. I prefer this by far to Cider with Rosie, Lee's better known work.
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on 13 March 2011
As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning (1969) is an autobiographical account of an epic journey around Spain in the nineteen thirties.
It is 1934 and Laurie Lee, the author, is a young man. He leaves the security of his Cotswold home to embark on an adventure.
Initially he travels to London and ekes out an existence by playing the violin and by labouring on a London building site. He decides to go to Spain. It seems a rash decision because the young lad's choice of destination is based on the fact that he knows a phrase of Spanish - "¿Puede por favor dame un vaso de agua?" - "Will you please give me a glass of water?"
For a year, he tramps through Spain, from Vigo in the north to Almuñécar on the south coast. During this voyage, he experiences a country that ranges from utter desolation to extreme beauty. He manages to eat by a earning a few pesetas playing his violin. He sleeps at night in his blanket under an open sky or in a cheap, rough posada though occasionally he is rewarded with the warm and generous hospitality of poor village people that he meets along the way.
Laurie Lee provides the reader with a vivid account of life in Spain during the bleak years leading up to the Spanish Civil War. I enjoy reading travel books, especially those about Spain. "As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning" is as good as any I have read even though many of the places he visits - Vigo, Valladolid, Cádiz, Tarifa - are described as squalid, dark, decrepit, acrid, and scruffy. Even Seville is both "dazzling and squalid" according to the author. He does praise some of the places he visits- Toro, Segovia, Toledo - who wouldn't! However, Lee's descriptions of the places and peoples that he has encountered are couched in an extremely well written and sometimes poetic prose.
Laurie Lee must have been a good communicator. If we are to believe that he only had one phrase of Spanish then he did extremely well communicating with the people on his travels. His first port of call was Vigo and, I suspect that in July 1935, the ordinary people of that city would have spoken Galician. He would no doubt acquire more words of Spanish as he travelled through Spain but in Córdoba, Seville, Cádiz, Algeciras, Málaga and his final destination, Almuñecar, he would have encountered the Andaluz dialect. A novice in Castilian Spanish might experience some difficulty in understanding the spoken word of the ordinary people of Andalusia.
I enjoyed this book very much. I would recommend "As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning" as a thoroughly good read.

Robert Bovington
March 2011
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on 3 September 2008
Widely regarded as one of the greatest examples of travel writing ever made, 'As I walked out one midsummer morning' is a massively engaging book.
At once visceral, heartfelt, honest, bursting with humanity and in some part disturbing, this account of a young man's walk through the Spain of the 1930s is a vicarious experience that transports the reader into an unforgettable but lost world.
There are occasions when Lee seems to have arrived at truly momentous turning points. After crossing the Guadarrama peaks he first sees Madrid in the plain of La Mancha and his knowledge of Spain is to become transformed by his experience of the capital. And then later, when he meets a Spanish sailor who portentiously warns "I don't know who you are, but if you want to see blood, stick around -you're going to see plenty."
Lee's politics are not overtly expressed, but his love of the people and their way of life is clear. Written later and first published in 1969, a lesser writer would have a built in nostalgia for a lost ideal, but not so here. His record of the Spanish rural way of life is far from idealistic.
This is a book that I would recommend to all readers, young and old alike, and is one of the best books that I have ever read.
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on 13 December 2004
I first read this book about 12 years ago and have read it every couple of years or so since, it is wonderful and really allows you to live the journey that Laurie Lee took all those years ago when the world was a very different place.
As a previous reviewer has stated there is no in depth analysis of what is happening at this important time in European history just a country boy commenting on what he saw and experienced.
This is a wonderful book and one that I will read many more times yet..
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on 28 May 2001
It is very easy to read As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, a travel book about crossing Spain. To me however it is a journey of a boy into manhood.
Lee takes us from his childhood home in Gloucestershire on foot to the South coast where he plays his violin to earn some money. He walks along the coast and then turns inland and heads for London. He is shown the ropes of travelling by "Alf" a tramp, who refers to all others in his brotherhood as "Alf".
In London Lee works on a building site whilst lodging about a cafe. His description of the steak and kidney pudding bringing almost the aroma alive.
Having saved enough for a one-way ticket to Spain he embarks on a journey from North to South, playing his violin to earn board and lodgings. This is 1936 and Spain is on the verge of civil war, he meets others including Germany men trying to avoid the catastrophe which is shortly to engulf Europe.
I believe the writing to be some of the finest of the 20th Century, it has a poetical style and one feels like lingering to unstand in depths the full meaning of those well structured sentences.
For anyone who likes literature this is a must
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on 15 December 2002
I love this book and have done since the first time I read 10 years or so ago.
It describes a world that is very different to the one we live in now, a world where travel to the next county was a novelty for most, where foreign travel just did not happen for the vast majority (unless away at war) and where even knowledge of the "outside world" was very limited. The amazing thing is that this world is now only 60 or so years previous, before the second world war and the destruction that it brought changed everything.
The journey that this book details takes in the changes of the time both domestic and foreign and really involves you in the wonder and forboding that was in the air.
I recommend it to anyone, brilliant.
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on 29 January 2010
I absolutely love this book and have read it several times, in fact I'm currently reading it again in preparation for my up-and-coming trip across Spain, which is what inspired me to write this review.

For me it is the beauty of the language and the innocence of his tale that capture me. You can't get any more basic than a young man heading out with a knapsack to travel and find freedom. Freedom of the road, freedom of the soul... it is as relevant today as any day, if not more so.

I also adore the fact that this book highlights that the world of travel need not be far-flung, it need not always be exotic... beauty and difference can be found in the simplest of scenes, you just have to look with fresh eyes.
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