Review: Cider with Rosie

I never underline passages in books or write in the margins, it seems sacrilegious somehow. I´m not quite sure why this matters to me, because I don´t treat my books super carefully in any other regard. I break the spine (gasp, I know), dog-ear them and generally put them through a lot. How do you treat your books?

This habit come in handy when I read library books, but I still want to note down my favorite passages and so I use post-it markers. (I carry a pack of them with me and even keep some on my bedside table). As a result the books I´m reading often look like in the picture 🙂 Can you already tell that I loved Cider with Rosie?

Cider with Rosie is Laurie Lee´s memoir of his Cotswold childhood. In thirteen quasi-episodes he describes his chaotic but loving family, the village eccentrics, the beautiful Cotswolds, and more. The narrative spans the years from when Lee is about three years old and his mother and his siblings move to the village until shortly before he “walked out one midsummer morning”. Lee´s prose is unbelievably beautiful and his background as poet is very noticable, that combined with the landscape and life he describes makes for a book that appeals foremost to the senses.

Lee´s childhood must have been hard a lot of the time, there was never much to eat, no electricity, icy winters, and young children often did not come through. His mother also had to raise three daughters of his father´s previous marriage as well as her three sons, while their father left to live his own life apart from them. Despite the circumstances, Lee´s love for his family and his village shines through on every page. He does not gloss over ugly truths such as death and crime and incest in village life and gives what I think is a fairly accurate description of English  village life around 1920s, before modern life and inventions burst in and changed it forever.

Some of my favorite passages:

And I was sure it was the end of the world. All my life was the war, and the war was the world. Now the war was over. So the end of the world was to come. It made no other sense to me.” (21)

Jones´s terrorist goat seemed to me a natural phenomenon of that time, part of a village which cast up beasts and spirits as casually as human beings.” (32)

Even so such outbursts were often contagious and could lead to waves of throat-cutting; indeed, during one particularly gloomy season even the coroner did himself in.” (108)

When she tired of this, (mother)´d borrow Dorothy´s bicycle, though she never quite mastered the machine. Happy enough when the thing was in motion, it was stopping and starting that ouzzled her. She had to be launched on her way by running parties of villagers; and to stop she rode into a hedge.” (125)

The fresh boiled egg tasted of sun-warmed manna, the cocoa frothed and steamed, and the bread and butter- cut invalid fashion- was so thin you could see the plate through it.” (166)

The Tea was an orgy of communal gluttony, in which everyone took pains to eat more than his money´s worth and the helpers ate more than the customers.” (196)

The day Rosie Burdock decided to take me in hand was a motionless day of summer, creamy, hazy, and amber-coloured, with the beech trees standing in heavy sunlight as though clogged with wild wet honey.” (207f)

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.” (209)

This is one book that I can highly recommend! The loving description of nature and the free-spirited mother put me in mind of I Capture the Castle, they evoke a similar reading mood.

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18 thoughts on “Review: Cider with Rosie

  1. Great review! You’ve pretty much summed up what I love about this book, particularly love your quotes about food. As you said there wasn’t much to eat most of the time so when food is described it is done so in almost a sacred way. Both Lee’s description of food and scenery just made the book so real for me, I didn’t want to put the book down and leave the Cotswolds.

    I also had a very similar experience when reading I Capture the Castle! I’m really glad you enjoyed this book.

    1. I felt that way about the food as well, and it made me really hungry while reading 😀 I really want to re-visit the Cotswolds now, although I´m glad that I´ve seen them before reading the book, because a lot of it still looks like Lee describes it. I need to buy this one I think, and definitely the vintage edition!
      Glad you felt like this about I capture the castle as well! 🙂

  2. I used to carry sticky tabs with me to park pages. Now I just open a new note on my phone and write the page number and first few words of the passage down. It works for me because I always have my phone with me but I often forgot the tabs.

    1. I think it´s because I´m a student that I always have post-its with me 🙂 The phone method sounds good, too, though. And park works fine, cause if it´s a library book I take them out after noting down the passages 😉

  3. This sounds like a must-read. And I love the post-it notes. It’s actually a very good idea and I might copy it from you (if you don’t mind). I really dislike writing in books as well (and yes, like you I do break the spine, because I know I’d best do it myself before the reading makes it go cringy).

    1. Course I don´t mind! I find the method very practical, because you can take down the passages after reading and re-use the notes a couple of times, they still stick 🙂
      Glad you´re another spine breaker, it seems to be a big no for some readers.

  4. The fact that this is set in the Cotswolds is enough to make me want to read it. But it sounds like there’s much to love besides.

    1. Happy to hear you´re a Cotswolds fan as well 🙂 But the family dynamics and description of the times are amazing as well.

  5. I love the post-it notes you stuck on it!

    I am not as organised as I want to be. It’s definitely difficult to read a book and have a notebook handy, that would mean I can’t read my book in bed! 😉

    1. Haha, thanks. I think carrying around post-it notes comes with being a student. I´m a freak so I also keep some near my bed, but it works 🙂

    1. I always fell like marking books with post-its makes them look like required work for uni but it works best 🙂 It´s a great book, now I want everyone to read it 😀

  6. My mum loved this when she was younger and recommended it to me but somehow I’ve never come round to reading it. Your review really makes me want to though, I never realised it was quite so dark!

    I don’t mind a bit of dog-earing and spine-cracking. If it’s your own, you can love it how you like!

    1. I hope you´ll enjoy Cider with Rosie, it´s a lovely book. There are some dark bits, but Lee manages to make the beauty of his family and the village stand out.

  7. ‘Cider with Rosie’ looks like a fascinating book. I will look for it.

    I liked your thoughts on how you handle books – break the spine, use markers but don’t underline 🙂 Have you read the essay ‘Never do that to a book’ by Anne Fadiman? It is about this topic and is fascinating. In this essay, Fadiman distinguishes book readers as courtly lovers and carnal lovers. This essay is part of a collection called ‘Ex Libris’. If you haven’t read it, I would heartily recommend it 🙂

    1. Hehe, now I´m curious about how you treat your books!

      Thanks so much for sending me the essay, I´m looking forward to my commute tomorrow! 🙂 I´m curious about how I fit into her categories. I´ll need to finally get on to reading that book! My library actually has a great selection but if they don´t have a book in English, I tend to treat it as if they don´t have it at all. Pretty sure they´ve got this one in German, I should wander down that part of the library sometime 🙂

      1. You are welcome! Hope you enjoy reading the essay and hope it inspires you to read the book. Hope you can find the English version of the book in your library 🙂

        I highlight lines in any book I have (I don’t do that to books I borrow from the library :)) but otherwise I try to take care of the book. By Fadiman’s classification I would be somewhere between a courtly lover and a carnal lover of books. My mom refused to use bookmarks and used to dog-ear a book, pull the cover and break the spine and sometimes create mementoes in a book by spilling something on it 🙂 She was a carnal lover of books – pure and simple 🙂

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