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VINE VOICEon 23 August 2007
"They said: `You're Laurie Lee, aren't you? Well just you sit there for the present.' I sat there all day but I never got it. I ain't going back there again." This is Laurie Lee's unforgettable description of his first day at school.

I have a special affection for this book, as my mother grew up in the Stroud area and was only two years younger than Laurie. Even if they didn't actually know each other, it is very likely that they met.

The story manages to be both lyrical and realistic. One minute it presents a childhood idyll, next you are faced with death - sometimes sad, sometimes brutal.

The core of the story is the life of Laurie's large and boisterous family, living in cheerful poverty in their Cotswold cottage, and above all his mercurial, warm-hearted mother (his father plays only a bit-part in events). "She was an artist, a light-giver, and an original, and she never for a moment knew it."

It is a common tendency to look back on the period of one's youth as a turning point in history, but when you read the last chapter you will understand Laurie's claim "The village had a few years left, the last of its thousand, and they passed almost without our knowing".

Rosie really did exist. Indeed, she outlived Laurie, and in 2004 she was interviewed by BBC Radio Gloucestershire (in relation to her role in the story, she suggested that Laurie was "prone to exaggeration"!)

There were two excellent TV adaptations of the story in 1971 and 1998, starring respectively Rosemary Leach and Juliet Stevenson, and both are available on DVD. There was a third adaptation in 2015, also out on DVD, but it is less true to the book's content and spirit.

The book is as golden as the cider of the title - read it and delight.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 31 May 2012
The opening page of "Cider with Rosie" describes the world through the eyes of a toddler - mysterious, unpredictable, worryingly large. Laurie Lee's genius is to keep this magical, subjective, viewpoint intact throughout the book, growing as the author grows, understanding with each chapter more of the world he swims through, a wondering, innocent, cunning, superstitious presence. Although this book is often recommended for an insight into rural life a few decades ago - and by any standard, it is one of the best books on the subject - it is for his mastery of the "child's eye view" that we should respect the writer. He resists all temptations to be "cute", he refrains from commenting on his memories, he presents them to us in utter purity. By reading it, each of us, rural or not, is able to recapture the experience of being a small child.

Towards the latter part of the book, as the narrator matures and gains a more grown-up perspective, we see more of the darker side of his world, and at last understand that this is an elegy for something that Lee, even as he lived it, began to realise was slipping from his grasp. The emeotion we feel is not the sentimental nostalgia of TV's Lark Rise To Candleford, but Lee's own grief for what he cannot now recapture, except by writing this book.

"Cider with Rosie" will make you laugh and cry, but your feelings are never manipulated for effect. Every emotion you will feel is genuine and springs from deep wihin your own experience of being a child, and growing up. This edition, with the drawings by John Ward is the one to get - their nervous, unpolished line and strange quiet power make them the perfect companion to the words; they will send shivers down your spine.

For a factual, but equally magical picture of life in a Suffolk village just after the Second World War try Akenfield. For poems that will bring you something of the same feeling as Cider with Rosie, read A Shropshire Lad (Dover Thrift).
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on 22 June 1999
"Never to be forgotten, that first long secret drink of golden fire, juice of those valleys and of that time, wine of wild orchards, of russet summer, of plump red apples, and Rosie's burning cheeks. Never to be forgotten, or ever tasted again...."
I challenge any reader not be moved by the poetry and the passion of the prose in this work. Truly a classic of the twentieth century.
Deeply evocative, one can almost feel the weight of a thousand years of history, slowly disappearing while the young Laurie Lee grows up, in a chaotic house with his memorable mother and the brothers and sisters from his father's first marriage as well as the second (the father himself having left for London). We see the full, glorious spectrum of village life, almost pagan in the way everything is bound up in the seasons and the rhythms of the earth.
A book to read and read again.
"I was set down from the carrier's cart at the age of three; and there with a sense of bewilderment and terror my life in the village began."
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on 30 March 2006
Although Laurie Lee preferred to write poetry, he is best known for his prose: the trilogy of memoirs he wrote late in his life. "Cider with Rosie" is the first, detailing his childhood from the time he moves into his Gloucestershire home to just before he leaves to seek his fortune. His prose is extremely lyrical, especially when describing nature, his beloved mother and his three older half-sisters. Apart from the quality of the writing, "Cider with Rosie" should be read for the poetic descriptions of an England with few motorcars "where the horse was still king", agricultural communities that were able to function independently and hardly any interference from "the outside world".
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on 20 April 2008
This is a wonderfully told memoir of Lee's childhood in the remote Cotswold village of Stroud. He tells of how he grew up being raised in a one-parent family, his father having left them when he was just 3 years old. His mother believed for all of her life that one day her husband would return home to them, but sadly he never did. He used to send them a few pounds to support the home each week but Lee's life was one of poverty and hardship, yet he still took delight in many of the simple things in life. Lee's style of writing is beautifully descriptive and depicts a world before technology such as mobile phones and computers were even imagined. Sometimes funny, often sad, but extremely eloquently told, in this book Laurie Lee brings the distant past back to life and I highly recommend it.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 January 2011
The opening page of "Cider with Rosie" describes the world through the eyes of a toddler - mysterious, unpredictable, worryingly large. Laurie Lee's genius is to keep this magical, subjective, viewpoint intact throughout the book, growing as the author grows, understanding with each chapter more of the world he swims through, a wondering, innocent, cunning, superstitious presence. Although this book is often recommended for an insight into rural life a few decades ago - and by any standard, it is one of the best books on the subject - it is for his mastery of the "child's eye view" that we should respect the writer. He resists all temptations to be "cute", he refrains from commenting on his memories, he presents them to us in utter purity. By reading it, each of us, rural or not, is able to recapture the experience of being a small child.

Towards the latter part of the book, as the narrator matures and gains a more grown-up perspective, we see more of the darker side of his world, and at last understand that this is an elegy for something that Lee, even as he lived it, began to realise was slipping from his grasp. The emeotion we feel is not the sentimental nostalgia of TV's Lark Rise To Candleford, but Lee's own grief for what he cannot now recapture, except by writing this book.

"Cider with Rosie" will make you laugh and cry, but your feelings are never manipulated for effect. Every emotion you will feel is genuine and springs from deep wihin your own experience of being a child, and growing up. The edition with the drawings by John Ward is the one to get - their nervous, unpolished line and strange quiet power make them the perfect companion to the words; they will send shivers down your spine.

For a factual, but equally magical picture of life in a Suffolk village just after the Second World War try Akenfield. For poems that will bring you something of the same feeling as Cider with Rosie, read A Shropshire Lad (Dover Thrift).
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on 7 January 2010
A fine BBC drama recording of the classic Laurie Lee autobiographical novel. Tim McInnerny is superb as the narrator/Laurie, Niamh Cusack has a valiant stab at a rural Gloucester accent and is very moving as the scatty, dreamy Mother, and the rest of the cast are very natural and easy on the ear, even the children. With the added sound effects and folk music this is a very faithful rendition of my favourite book. And the scenes at the village entertainment, particularly the sitar playing, will have you in stitches. Worthy.
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on 28 October 2012
A really beautiful little book - one that is well worth keeping for future generations. I bought it for my grandson who had not read any Laurie Lee books and he was delighted - more by the presentation than by the content, I think. I would recommend it to anyone collecting Laurie Lee books - even though they might already have a different copy.
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on 5 November 2016
Cider with Rosie is vivid memoir of childhood in the first half of the twentieth century, encompassing that period just before and around the First World War when huge change and upheaval took place in society. Laurie Lee offers us his intimate sharing of the people, events and places he knew. The images he shares will stay with the reader long after putting the book down. I was particularly taken by his dream of being a King in charge of an army of grannies. These were proper grannies in long black dresses with tight white buns hidden under white bonnets, button boots, umbrellas, gossip and petty rivalries and glasses perched on the end of their noses - Giles Grannies in fact – this is just one of the pictures I took away. A less pleasant image was that of the boys holding birds under water then throwing them up into the air, reminding us of the vicious nature of little boys. The account is always brutally honest.

At times this book is an orgy of lyrical and poetic description almost reminiscent of Dylan Thomas, at others he offers a matter of fact discourse complete with the vernacular and dialect of the day. He tells of the poverty of life offset by a richness of village experience dating back thousands of years; a time of innocence and unbridled mischief for the children who ran wild and were sometimes so cruel. It is a personal account of a time long before mass communication and easy travel when people made their own entertainment and expectations were lower; and lastly, it was a time of nostalgia. School comprehension exercises put me off this book early on but I am so pleased to have rediscovered it in middle age.
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on 9 September 2014
So many things that I had forgotten about my childhood. The sayings, the games, the smells of the countryside,dialects, nicknames. The futility of school lessons that were fearful when understanding wouldn't appear. Of holidays on my Aunties farm, collecting fruit for jamming, the Damson trees in the garden.
My elder brother, big to me but so small against the Bull that he was allowed to walk down the lane with a rope through its nose ring.
Endless fields and woods where we would play well into darkness without the fear of strangers or danger from them. Iced over ponds in harsh winters and
friends that drowned when the ice gave way. The bedroom windows thick with ice on the inside when morning came and the pictures that we drew in that ice before breathing hot air on it to clear the page. All these things that have changed in the name of progress, today's children with no childhood, of not knowing we were poor because everyone was. Of clothes that lasted till they wouldn't fit anymore. All these things and many many more that I had forgotten about lying deeply in the recesses of my mind that I have revisited again thanks to Laurie Lee and Cider with Rosie.
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