I’ve been wanting to read this since the BBC did an adaption sometime at the end of last year/start of this year but somehow my original reservation slipped through the library system and I only got around to rereserving it recently. Of course, I didn’t want to watch the adaption until I’d read it and I’m not sure that I recorded it so that may prove to take as much time as it has to find the book in the first place.
I think, because I knew there’d been a television adaption (presumably more than one, and I’d guess a film also although I haven’t done any research) I’d thought that the novel would have more of a plot. Instead, it seemed like snatches of memories from the narrator’s childhood in the Cotswolds. In writing the book in this way, Laurie Lee builds a living tableau of post WWI rural village life which is kind of enchanting, although to be honest I think I would have preferred if it did have more of a personal story – as in a character going on some kind of journey. I suppose this is quite petty of me and instead it depicts the general journey of village life and the excitement of youth – and the memories are obviously very personal to the narrator.
Even for 230 pages this was a very quick read – the way it’s written is quite musical and easy to follow, and for the most part is light-hearted and whimsical – except for one short, disturbing scene when the narrator and his young friends plan to rape a local girl (which, thankfully, they fail at completely – but my stomach did turn a bit of a turn and the candid reportage of their intentions did make me question the rest of the narration. Whether or not they would have gone through with it had they managed to ensnare her I’m not entirely sure, but even so I’m glad it was towards the end of the novel because it did unsettle my reading – not that I felt a particular affinity or real affection for the narrator prior to that). I did enjoy the book but not in the way I’d expected to when I reserved it so so long ago – the way it’s written with its vignettes make it ideal for commuting or just reading a little every night.