This is the last book I managed from my Cornwall TBR, and I didn't manage to finish it until I got home! Having read, and absolutely loved, Cider With Rosie (the author's previous book, which leads on to this one), I jumped at the chance when I saw this book in a second-hand bookshop. Today's book is...
As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning
Laurie Lee recounts his experiences leaving home and working in London, then exploring Spain on foot at the time when the country was on the brink of war.
What I expected when I picked up this book was a continuation of Laurie Lee's beautiful style, filled with lush, evocative description. And he did not disappoint! As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning is just as beautiful in its rich portrayal of the landscapes that Lee finds himself in and the atmosphere he felt while experiencing them.
While reading this book, more so than when I read Cider With Rosie, I was struck by a certain implausibility of certain events or descriptions, and occasionally with a doubt as to whether he could really remember things that well. This was especially highlighted by the passive, seemingly objective accounts of what would have been quite emotionally strenuous events. It took me a little while to submit to the necessary mindset for this book, namely that of accepting it as a vehicle for beautiful descriptions of vivid, but also vague, memories. It is not supposed to be factually precise, but instead aims to show a different type of truth, one that recalls colours and scents rather than names and dates. It's more a case of trying to capture a certain atmosphere or mode of thinking specific to a particular time in his life.
Even Laurie Lee himself, as the first-person narrator, barely gains any distinctive voice or characteristics. Certainly, there is barely any character development in this book, mostly because none of the characters stick around for very long. Instead, most of the people are sharply described but almost bordering on caricature. There is much more of a focus on Lee's relationship to the landscape and the elements as he continues this solo journey on foot. Nature itself is the most prominent 'character' in this story, as it is nature that seems the most autonomous, the most changeable, and the most three-dimensional of all of them.
I was hoping for more of Lee's wonderfully vivid writing and I certainly got that. I could almost feel the sun on my neck and smell the baked Spanish earth. But I still think I preferred Cider With Rosie, which created a more robust picture of the people in Lee's life as well a the scenery that surrounded him.
So for that reason, it's getting:
What did you think of As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning? Do you agree with my review? What's your favourite memoir? Let me know in the comments.