One of eight children, Laurie Lee was born in 1914, in Slad, Gloucestershire, then a remote corner of England. As his father was absent, the large family – five children from his father’s first marriage and three from his second one – was brought up by his capable mother. “We lived where he had left us; a relic of his provincial youth; a sprawling cumbersome, countrified brood too incongruous to carry with him; and I, for one, scarcely missed him. I was perfectly content in this world of women . . . bullied and tumbled through the hand-to-mouth days, patched or dressed-up, scolded, admired, swept off my feet in sudden passions of kisses, or dumped forgotten among the unwashed pots.”
Lee’s memoir opens when he was just a baby – younger than three years old – and ends as he becomes a young man experiencing his first kiss. “I turned to look at Rosie. She was yellow and dusty with buttercups and seemed to be purring in the gloom; her hair was rich as a wild bee’s nest and her eyes were full of stings. I did not know what to do about her, nor did I know what not to do. She looked smooth and precious, a thing of unplumbable mysteries, and perilous as quicksand.”
This beloved classic describes a lost world, a world reflecting the innocence and wonder of childhood, and illuminating an era without electricity or telephones. This is England on the cusp of the modern era, but it could have been anywhere. This may explain why Cider with Rosie became an instant bestseller when it was published in 1959, selling over six million copies in the UK alone, and continues to be read by children and adults all over the world.
A charming look at the loss of innocence into a world of understanding.
—The Midwest Book Review
BOOK GROUP RESOURCES
- Learn about Laurie Lee and read some of his poetry.
- Get the basics about Cider with Rosie and read about Laurie Lee’s manuscripts at the British Library.
- After reading the book, compare it with the two adaptations for television, one from 1971 by the BBC and one in 1998 by Masterpiece Theater.
- Explore the region in which the memoir takes place: the Cotswolds, or the “Heart of England”.
- Read about the “Classics of Englishness” from the Albion Magazine.