Following on from my recent read of Lee’s As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning I thought I should actually get round to reading Cider With Rosie. I know I’m reading them the wrong way round but I can’t see that it really matters. I watched the BBC adaption a few years ago and I think I’ve seen one of the earlier film versions but, hey, you can’t get enough of a good thing. I was surprised to find that the novel is not told in a chronological order but is instead divided into thematic chapters, which I quite liked.
Instead of reviewing the book I wanted to share a few quotations from it that appealed to me. The first is a description of the family’s kitchen, a kitchen landscape.
That kitchen, worn by our boots and lives, was scruffy, warm, and low, whose fuss of furniture seemed never the same but was shuffled around each day. A black grate crackled with coal and beech-twigs; towels toasted on the guard; the mantel was littered with fine old china, horse brasses, and freak potatoes. On the floor were strips of muddy matting, the windows were choked with plants, the walls supported stopped clocks and calendars, and smoky fungus ran over the ceilings. There were also six tables of different sizes, some armchairs gapingly stuffed, boxes, stools, and unravelling baskets, books and papers on every chair, a sofa for cats, a harmonium for coats, and a piano for dust and photographs. These were the shapes of our kitchen landscape, the rocks of our submarine life, each object worn smooth by our constant nuzzling, or encrusted by lively barnacles, relics of birthdays and dead relations, wrecks of furniture long since foundered, all silted deep by Mother’s newspapers which the years piled round on the floor.
In the second quote, which appears near the end of the book, Lee compares how adolescents are treated in the city with the country; he says: ‘The modern city, for youth, is a police-trap.’ He then takes a rather rose-tinted view of crime and punishment in the country; it’s a wonderful quote though.
Our village was clearly no pagan paradise, neither were we conscious of showing tolerance. It was just the way of it. We certainly committed our share of statutory crime. Manslaughter, arson, robbery, rape cropped up regularly throughout the years. Quiet incest flourished where the roads were bad; some found their comfort in beasts; and there were the usual friendships between men and boys who walked through the fields like lovers. Drink, animality, and rustic boredom were responsible for most. The village neither approved nor disapproved, but neither did it complain to authority. Sometimes our sinners were given hell, taunted, and pilloried, but their crimes were absorbed in the local scene and their punishment confined to the parish.
And I may as well end with a quote from the scene which gives the book its name. Sex and cider with Rosie in the summertime.
Never to be forgotten, that first long secret drink of golden fire, juice of those valleys and of that time, wine of wild orchards, of russet summer, of plump red apples, and Rosie’s burning cheeks. Never to be forgotten, or ever tasted again…