Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Laurie Lee

I don't often read "travel" writing -- writing focused on nature, place, and people -- but I was attracted, for whatever reason, to Laurie Lee's reflections on Gloucestershire, that beautiful English county encompassing the Cotswolds. 

Village Christmas -- as the collection is called -- assumes an element of nostalgia and romance: Lee's depiction of his youth, his growing up, and his education are tinged with sweetness, but also with sorrow: there's a rueful quality to what's come before. 

That said, there's an equal element of joy, of pure, unencumbered joy: Lee writes of Gloucestershire between the wars as if it were a place apart, as if it were enmeshed in a dream. The result is a collection which does more than depict the landscape: this is a book, instead, which humanizes it. 

Lee can sometimes, I think, come across as a curmudgeon, especially when addressing development or technology. But he acknowledges as much -- which helps maintain a healthy tone, one which shies from self-importance. 

Village Christmas is one of those refreshing books: a pleasure to read, a delight to digest. There are observations here -- little anecdotes about England -- which invite reflection, regardless of one's home. When it comes to travel writing, Lee has carved a niche. The last word is reserved for him: "We are going...on a series of seasonal journeys, the climax of which is simply returning home." 

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