Beautifully evocative, this is a classic memoir of the English idyll, where even winter is ‘summery’ and death has a romantic sheen.
Reading this while living abroad should be a Foreign Office requirement for all British ex-pats! It’s the England you remember when you don’t live there. The longer you stay abroad (and I’ve been away nigh on 10 years now), the more your image of England matches Lee’s life. It only takes touchdown at Heathrow to bring you back to reality with a bump!
I wonder what I’d have turned out like if I’d had the halcyon youth of Lee. Having said that, throughout the delightful description of his childhood, one shadow casts a pall: there’s an absent father. Not dead, but worse, just absent. But perhaps that was for the best.
If you liked this, I’d recommend As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Lee; his walk through Spain which follows on from this chronologically. Also, My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell is another classic childhood memoir which is also very very funny.
I was set down from the carrier’s cart at the age of three; and there with a sense of bewilderment and terror my life in the village began.
The playground roared like a rodeo, and the potato burned through my thigh.
It was then that I began to sit on my bed and stare out at the nibbling squirrels, and to make up powems from intense abstraction, hour after unmarked hour, imagination scarcely faltering once, rhythm hardly skipping a beat, while sisters called me, suns rose and fell, and the poems I made, which I never remembered, were the first and last of that time…
terrible > poor > mediocre > okay > good > very good> excellent > superb