15 October 2011

Review: As I walked out one midsummer morning by Laurie Lee

I decided it was time I finished at least one challenge. As you may remember, I decided to stop trying to finish the challenges I had signed up for (Gothic novels, mythology and What's in a Name), without actually quitting them. The plan was to stop actively looking for books that fit and just wait and see if something I read fit a particular challenge. Well, I didn't realise it at the time, but I actually finished my last What's in a Name challenge book 2 months ago. That's the one with travel or movement in the title, which this book fits perfectly. So here is the review:

Year of publication: 1969
No. in series: 2/3
Genre: Memoir, travel
Setting & time:England (London) and Spain, 1934-36

Laurie Lee set out on foot from his home in Slad, in 1934, and ended up in London, working as a labourer for a while, before taking a ship to Spain. Starting out in the northern port of Vigo, he walked across Spain, visiting various cities and towns and ending up in the town of Almuñécar. There he was able to observe first hand the political unrest that finally led to the Spanish civil war, in which he would later take an active part, described in the final part of his trilogy of memoirs, A Moment of War, which I have not read (yet).

Like the previous book in the trilogy, Cider with Rosie,  this book is written in a style that at times feels like one is reading a prose poem. The humour is there as well, but also a feeling of emptiness, as if, although he never states it outright, he was looking for something but didn't know what. He details his adventures on the road in Spain: fighting off wolves in the mountains, befriending shepherds and vagabonds, often sleeping rough, once falling ill with sunstroke, but never seeming to have been in any danger, not even when living among very poor people or when taking sides in the political debates of the time.

Unlike Cider with Rosie, which was written as if it were meant to be a one-off, this book was clearly meant to be continued in the last book in the trilogy, and therefore feels unfinished, in that it has no resolution or firm ending, just a suggestion that Lee is finally setting off on a journey that will enable him to find what he is looking for. It is nevertheless a very good read, and I look forward to reading the final book, although I am in no hurry to obtain it. 4+ stars.

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