A quintessential coming of age story. It tells of Laurie Lee’s childhood in Gloucestershire, just after WW1. But it is not only Lee’s coming of age, it is also that of the village, as the rural backwater changes rapidly, losing many of its traditional village ways and gaining things such as motor vehicles.
The first time I read it, I was quite young and slightly confused as it was the first book I read that was not really chronological, but instead told the story grouped by overlapping themes, such as seasons, school, grannies (not blood ones) and festivals. It also takes a very relaxed approach to consenting incest, underage sex and drink and attempted gang rape – not something I expected as a teenager reading a book of such antiquity! Rereading it as an adult, is rather different.
The most memorable scenes for me are not the famous cider in the haystack but two big disappointments: when Laurie is deemed too old to sleep in his mother’s bed and then when he starts school and is told to sit in a particular place “for the present”, and is bitterly disappointed not to be given said present at the end of the day.