Vintage Publicity Director, Alice Broderick recommends
My love for Cider with Rosie stems from the author note, hidden at the very beginning of Cider with Rosie. It appears where you would normally expect an author dedication and in its few words encapsulates everything that is so perfectly examined within its pages. It reads: ‘The book is a recollection of early boyhood, and some of the facts may be distorted by time.’
It is a portrait of childhood drawn by a man already conscious he was writing about something slightly beyond his grasp. Nostalgic, lyrically written, his half-recollections reflect our own yearning for lost childhood worlds, painting a vivid picture of a small boy in an English village, long since disappeared. Yet it is also far more than the tale of one boy’s life. Lee says in its closing chapter: ‘The last days of my childhood were also the last days of the village. I belonged to that generation which saw, by chance, the end of a thousand years of life.’ It feels particularly poignant that Lee’s book, which celebrates so beautifully a faded countryside idyll, opens at the start of the First World War. In this centenary year of that cataclysmic event, when we have concerned ourselves so much with the act of remembrance, we marked the centenary of a man who spent his life writing about memory.
The joy of reading Cider with Rosie is to swim back through time: down country lanes and into shimmering summers full of hay-making, blackberrying and of course, cider drinking. Yet at Christmas we should remember it is a Christmas book too. There is a magical scene: a crisp five-mile walk to go carol-singing, that is still read at services across the country. I often hear it read aloud and am reminded once again of Lee’s lilting way with words. Cider with Rosie is not just a book about being young. It is also a book about growing old, and this is the reason I love it so much and why it makes such a wonderful gift. We remember passages from it, we read it years ago, and this year we can use the excuse of a centenary to re-read it again. Through Cider with Rosie we can revisit a world long since faded and pass the memories of it on to the next generation.