Laurie Lee and Cider with Rosie

Few books make you experience the glories of the English countryside so intensely as Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie. He grew up in Slad in Gloucestershire and wrote the first book in his autobiographical trilogy about village life before the motor car and modern development changed that world for good.

Come with me on a fabulous reading journey through 2020. Together we will explore a thought-provoking selection of 19th and 20th Century classics. For each novel you will receive an illustrated monograph packed full of intriguing stories about the author behind the book, explaining its themes, tempting you with film versions to watch, and challenging you with discussion questions.

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For those of us who love England – its landscapes, way of life, history and, of course, its literature, Cider with Rosie is a delightful book. Its language is rich with imagery and makes you see, smell, hear and even taste the things described. I can see young Laurie lost in the grasses, “each blade tattooed with tiger-skins of sunlight”, smell the “smoky comfort” of the family kitchen, and taste the cider which is like the “wine of wild orchards, of russet summer, of plump red apples”. Laurie Lee’s memoir is one of the most sensual books I know!

It’s also a book about change. Laurie Lee was born just as WWI began, in a village dependent on the horse. He had uncles who fought in the Boer War, and his family lived in a world that had little in the way of technology, medicine or prosperity. The changes wrought by war and the passing of the few years of his youth are captured so evocatively, and yet the author does not skate over the difficulties and narrowness of his childhood years. I feel privileged to share in his slice of English history, as experienced in a Cotswold village, when I read his book.

“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.” ― Laurie Lee

Discuss it with me

Laurie Lee was a fascinating man – he had enormous charm (too much when it came to women!), a taste for travel and weakness for drink. Get to know Laurie Lee and his classic book through my Reader’s Guide.

As you read this book, will you drink “the wine of wild orchards” and flush like Rosie in the heat of a “russet summer”? After reading the Reader’s Guide come back and tell me what you think by leaving a comment.


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Featured image credit- Laurie Lee, Cider with Rosie. Samantha Morton in Cider with Rosie (2015),
Body image credit- Joe Roberts as Laurie and Lia Barrow as Rosie in Cider with Rosie (1998),

Comments (8)

  1. Susannah Fullerton

    I also listened to Laurie Lee reading it himself, which was a wonderful experience. His prose is just so beautiful. I am really glad you found my notes helpful. ‘Cider with Rosie’ has proved one of my most popular choices this year.

  2. Gaby Meares

    I listened to Laurie Lee narrate his memoir which really added to the experience. His prose is lyrical. His early life in particular was so evocatively told. However, as you pointed out in your notes, there are several incidents that cause the contemporary reader a level of discomfort. The casual racism and sexism is quite extraordinary! And the village’s acceptance of certain crimes reveals that all was not idyllic and bucolic!
    But all that aside, I thoroughly enjoyed Cider with Rosie. I managed to find a lovely original hardback edition with illustrations by John Ward and I will now continue his story with As I Walked Out one Midsummer Morning.
    Thank you again for your fabulous notes.

  3. Susannah Fullerton

    I am so glad you loved Laurie Lee’s beautiful prose. I agree that the film is nice, but it is the book that really has magic. I hope that my 25 page guide to the book will give you even more appreciation of it.
    Oh wouldn’t it be fabulous to walk the whole Cotswold Way! That’s a wonderful post-Covid aim. I’m going to investigate and might well buy that same book.

  4. Elna Estcourt

    I haven’t read this before, but, being in love with the English countryside, I approached with excitement! However, the detailed and unique descriptions of the minutia of home and village life, so beautifully written, will be what stays with me. Some parts I just had to re read because I loved the play with words. Just to mention one image – the simple description of the frozen pond: “black and flat as a tray, the skaters rolling around on it like marbles” – really caught my imagination. Many pages are filled with more elaborate and beautiful descriptions of simple things.
    I also listened to the BBC recording and watched the movie but felt they did not give me the joy I felt with the book, because so much of the beautiful writing was not included, and the plot lines were not as important to me as the prose.
    The book reminded me that I really should do some more walking in the Cotswolds. So I also bought a book, “The Cotswold Way” (104 miles long!), which I hope to put to good use post-Covid!

  5. Natalie Aris Jones

    Cider with Rosie has been one of my favourite books since reading it at school. I recently found a copy on someone’s roadside collection and picked it up for another read, but also because I was shocked that anyone would want to give it away! The image of a time passed, simple village life full of characters – not all savoury is always a pleasure to lose myself in. Laurie Lee writes beautifully of the Cotswold life and even the language is of an era, whoever has wainscots in their house now! Thank you for highlighting this marvellous little treasure again. I’ll have another read.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Gosh, how could anyone give it away?? it is a gorgeous book. I hope you find my 25 page guide to the book helpful and that it adds to your appreciation.

  6. Christine Park-Strauch

    Read this at school in the late 60s. It stayed with me and in 2018 I visited Lee’s village of Slad in the Cotswolds. We had a few drinks in the Woolpack and chatted to some people who knew him. Paid our respects at his grave in the Churchyard opposite the Pub. A wonderful day!!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Oh you lucky thing!! I should be going there for a drink in the Woolpack and a walk through the village this year – Covid has put a stop to that!

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