Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee & A Book Groups reaction

Cider With Rosie is one of those captivating reads that seizes your attention from the very first page, pulls you into a world that’s vivid and real and becomes like a beloved companion that you can’t stand to parted from. Laurie Lee writes with a confident and powerful voice, lulling his reader back in time to another world were community spirit prevails, horses and carts out number cars and buses and city life is a distant dream.

You could easily be mistaken for thinking that Cider With Rosie was in fact fiction, so poetic is lee’s writing. It is in fact however an autobiography told to a sporadic time frame exploring Lee’s life from the moment he moved to the county, his school years, his family bonds and the special relationship he shares with his home village. Lee seems less concerned with giving a solid and ordered portrayal of his life and more inspired by recounting the many cherished memories of the past.

 He recounts with warmth his eccentric but close family and their many collective habits and rituals. The book is full of heart warming memories of erratic family meals which were frugal but full of love. He dedicates a whole chapter to the memory of his mother and all of her endearing idiosyncrasies. He even spends another chapter describing with humour and wit the two wonderfully peculiar old ladies that live next to his cottage.

Although the book was written decades ago there is a timeless charm to the story and it’s easy to believe that many of the events of Lee’s youth happened only yesterday. Essentially the story is a coming of age tale, but unlike the many, many stories of this kind which have followed Cider With Rosie, this book wins with originality and a personal, intimate tone.

It feels less like a distant and impersonal story and more like a dear friend recounting their most important memories. Lee seems to emulate in his writing the spirit and soul of the village. The breezy, hazy summer days spent exploring country life are reflected back in the easy carefree but eloquent tone. I found lee’s voice soothing and gentle but also effective, I was transported through every stage of the book.

 BOOK GROUP THOUGHTS

Given that I rarely have a book group were everyone enjoys the book I was surprised to find all my book groupers in happy agreement about Cider With Rosie. We all enjoyed the book and all agreed that the lyrical tone of Lee’s writing made for a pleasant and easy-going novel.

But sometimes you need a little diversity and disagreement  to really get thing going and we sadly lacked the usual tug of war of opinion, each clinging onto our own unique reaction to the book.

As far as a book goes Cider With Rosie is a perfect novel to wile away the time. Nothing offends and the story is engaging to the last. But sometimes the very best books are the ones that evoke more than just pleasant memories and feelings. sometimes you need suspense, masterful plots and stories that stir your values. At least these are the perfect ingredients for a book group book.

And so we were all left happy with the novel but bereft of any fierce feelings. Some off course liked the book more than others, some found it simultaneously enjoyable but also a little lacklustre after all the praise surrounding the book.

Others cared not whether the book ticked certain literary checklists and just enjoyed the experience.

So what does everyone else think of Cider With Rosie? Did it blow you away? Or did it leave you a little disappointed? Or perhaps you were somewhere in the middle.

I loved the book and enjoyed dipping in and out of it at leisure,soaking up Lee’s prose. But I wouldn’t pick another of Lee’s books for a book group, for me my Cider With Rosie Journey was personal and intimate, I can’t quite explain why I resonated so strongly with his childhood and experiences, but resonate I did.

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The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Very rarely does a book seem to encapsulate all of the ingredients needed for the perfect novel. Something always seems to be missing no matter how good the overall book is. A poor, harried ending, lack of strong characterisation. And yet The Shadow Of The Wind seems to be that rarest of oddities: The perfect novel.

The novel begins when ten old Daniel Sempere is taken, by his father, to a dark and mysterious place called The Cemetery Of Forgotten Books. Here he discovers a world where abandoned and neglected books find an eternal home in this obscure and magical place.

He is told that he may take just one book for his very own, but he must keep it with himself always. This book and him will always be bound together. Daniel chooses The Shadow Of The Wind by Julian Carax, a book he has never before heard of and one whose author is a complete mystery to him.

Nevertheless Daniel is full of excitement at owning this precious and unusual treasure, but almost immediately it leads him to receives unwanted attention from an ominous and terrifying man who strikingly resembles the villain in The Shadow Of The Wind. This disfigured and ominous man begins appearing outside of Daniels apartment, just like the villain from the novel. He tries in vain to persuade Daniel to hand over his book which the stranger confesses he desperately wants to burn, like he wants to do with all of Carax’s book.

As the pressure mounts Daniel decides to find out for himself the true history of the book and the reason why this man would be so desperately pursuing him. Soon Daniel realises that the novels writer Carax has a dark and mysterious past, his death is one large question mark and the deeper Daniel digs the more he realises how inexplicably his life was linked with that of a beautiful lady whose whereabouts is again ambiguous and unknown. The further he digs the more it becomes apparent that there are unresolved events looming in the past, now threatening to leak into the present, but even more alarmingly it would seem a perfect paradox is appearing between Daniels life and  that of Julian’s.

Zafron takes his slow and delectable time in peeling away the many layers of mystery in this story but if the truth is a long time waiting the novel never suffers. Peppered with humour, romance and great and beautiful friendships the book is an intricately woven masterpiece. A true story.

Book Groups Reaction…

It was a record-breaking book group moment when we met to discuss the book: for once we all loved it. From the plot to the characters to the ending and to the story on a whole, our reaction was unanimously positive. In fact being the ever critical bunch that we are we tried to find a fault but really struggled.

Everyone agreed that the book had an echo of Dickens about it. Something about this perfectly formed picture blew us all away. Most writers seems to excel in certain area’s but fail subsequently in others but Zafron is consistent.

If I had to be critical and I really hate to when a book is so good, I would say the ending seemed a little clichéd, perhaps not quite in keeping with the rest of the story. That said he didn’t cave into that most cardinal of sins that so many writers commit; writing a rushed and harried ending. To the end he took his time.

Myself and Manchester’s Artistic Son found the characterization of women particularly interesting, is it just us or are all the women portrayed as sexual objects? Created to steal the glance of any man in their path? Not that we believe the author to be sexist, I think it’s fair to say we both agreed that this was a clever literary move in order to represent how women were perhaps viewed in that time.

Holly and Sammy Dee disagreed slightly, not seeing such a contrived message in the book. But this discussion only lead us to ponder how on one level the book is quite simply an extraordinary story, but on the other a very thought-provoking novel which leaves you with much to ponder.

What does everyone else think of this book? Did you love it as much as we all did? I’d love to hear your thoughts.