Laurie Lee: The Well-Loved Stranger

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9780140276886: Laurie Lee: The Well-Loved Stranger

Despite his autobigraphical writings, despite his gregarious appearances on the London literary scene and in the village pub where he was always available to fans, Laurie Lee was a secretive man. Millions of readers feel they know him from the lyrical account of his Gloucestershire boyhood, immortalized in "Cider with Rosie". They also know that he walked out one midsummer morning in 1934 and wandered through Spain, playing the fiddle before being caught up in the Spanish Civil War. When he returned home, he spent almost the rest of his life writing about these youthful adventures. He was a poet, a playwright and a broadcaster, his books became classics, and he was devoted to two women: his wife and his daughter, "the firstborn". Publicly, he fostered the Laurie Lee legend. But behind his locked study door, in the letters and diaries he left, lay the revealing clues to his private pain and passion: the girls he left behind, the woman who took him to Spain, the woman he came back to...and the others who nurtured, protected and loved him all his crowded, fulfilled but often tormented life. Eventually, when nearly eighty, he published a vivid and moving account of his Spanish Civil War experiences which, after his death, were questioned by fellow veterans. A fierce debate ensued in the national press about Lee's role in the war. Here for the first time, from his private correspondence, are the facts about that time and other hitherto unknown elements in the Laurie Lee story - which are even more fascinating than the legends he fostered.

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From Publishers Weekly:

English author Lee (1914-1997) began his writing career as a poet, but was best known for his autobiographical works. With the cooperation of Lee's widow as well as access to Lee's papers, Grove (Dear Dodie), a columnist for the London Times, has produced a well-researched though conflicted account. Born into a poor Gloucestershire family, Lee, who suffered from epilepsy, was raised by an eccentric but loving mother who instilled in him an appreciation of books, music and nature. He left home before age 20 and wandered through Europe playing the fiddle, composing poetry and briefly participating in the Spanish Civil War. Good-looking and charming, Lee was financed by several women who encouraged his writing. According to Grove, the great love of his life was Lorna Wishart, an unconventional married woman. The two had a lengthy, passionate affair that resulted in the birth of a daughter. Some years after Lorna broke off the relationship, Lee married her niece, Kathy. During their long marriage (which produced a second daughter), Kathy put up with her husband's relentless womanizing and increasing alcoholism. After he published Cider with Rose (1959), a well-received memoir of his childhood in the village of Slad, Lee became a celebrated literary figure. Apparently, Grove was posthumously charmed by Lee, since her sympathy for him interferes with objective assessment of his work. For instance, she gives the benefit of the doubt to Lee's version of his participation in the Spanish Civil War (A Moment of War, 1991), which sparked serious questions about his veracity. B&w photos.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Review:

³Lee devoted himself to restoring a sense of wonder to the world. A brisk, vivid, immensely sympathetic biography.² -- DAILY TELEGRAPH

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