Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Book Review, Sunday, April 15, 2012: As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning

Laurie Lee was an English writer who published this book in 1969, 35 years after the events in it took place.

Maybe it took that long for everything to fit together and make sense for him, because when he set off on his journey across England and eventually to Spain, he was just a young lad.

But he was obviously a poet even then, as well as a musician.

''I was nineteen years old, still soft at the edges, but with a confident belief in good fortune. I carried a small rolled-up tent, a violin in a blanket, a change of clothes, a tin of treacle biscuits, and some cheese. I was excited, vain-glorious, knowing I had far to go; but not, as yet, how far. As I left home that morning and walked away from the sleeping village, it never occurred to me that others had done this before me.''

He mentions the "violin in a blanket" in the middle of everything else, but it was the most important thing he carried with him, because it helped him earn his way on his travels.

Madame L got this book from some discount bookseller she doesn't remember now, for about $5.00, but it's also available from, for $9.49; and Madame L is sure it's available in your local library or can be ordered through your library from another library.

Madame L mentions all these ways of getting this book because it's so good. Reading this book is like reading a long poem on a relaxed, summery day, like dreaming drowsily into a word-induced stupor of beauty... even at the very end, when the village where he's staying is bombarded by a destroyer:

"But war was not far away, and after nightfall, unexpectedly, it paid its first mad call on Almunecar. A destroyer crept into the bay, unseen by anyone, and suddenly began probing the shore with its searchlight. The beam swept over the hills, up and down the coast, and finaly picked out the village and pinned it against the darkness. Held by the blazing eye, opening so ominously from the sea, the people experienced a moment of naked panic...

"For awhile nothing happened...The beam was abruptly switched off, followed by a moment of absolute darkness. Then there came a blinding flash from the sea.

"Silence. It was as though a great fuse had blown. Then the mountains behind us thundered, a thunder that boomed and cannoned from peak to peak and tumbled in the valleys like showers of stones. There was another flash, another explosion, another hot blast of air...Then we heard the tearing scream of a shell.

"The searchlight came on again. We could see the crowds on the beaches surging inland like a muddy wave. The destroyer fired once more, misting its searchlight with smoke, and we were no longer in doubt about its intentions. A house on our right suddenly shuddered, rose a foot in the air, and slowly collapsed like a puff-ball. A bundle of stones and trees leapt up by the river..."

Laurie Lee and another British citizen were evacuated by a British destroyer shortly afterward, and Laurie stayed on the deck,

"...watching Almunecar grow small and Spain folding itself away...I saw the long hard coast, which I'd trodden inch by inch, become a clinker of bronze on the skyline. Behind it the peaks of the Sierras crawling jaggedly into view, hung there suspended, then fell away---and in that instant of leaving them I felt them as never before, clutching at my senses like hands of bone. From that seaborne distance, cut off and secure, I seemed only then to begin to know that country; could smell its runnels of dust, the dead ash of its fields, whiffs of sour wine, rotting offal, and incense, the rank hide of its animals, the peppery skin of its men, the sickly tang of its fevred children..."

Dear Readers, Madame L mentions the cost and availability of this book, as she does with all the books she reviews, to help you decide if you want to buy or borrow it. If any of you would like to borrow this book from her, she will gladly lend it to you, with the warning that she has marked it heavily and the additional warning that she will want it back eventually, so she can read and read it again.

Two more notes:

Madame L found from this Wikipedia entry a little more about the author, including his full name and birth- and death-dates: Laurence Edward Alan "Laurie" Lee  (26 June 1914 – 13 May 1997).

And Madame L has started reading another of his books, Cider With Rosie (also bought from a discount bookseller) and  is not enjoying it as much, but she'll let you know when she finishes it if she thinks it's worth your time to start and finish it.

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