[note: I’ve been reading the English original]
The story: in the early 1930s, Laurie Lee is a man of just about twenty who he steps out of his door in Southwest England and decides to walk to London. He stays there for a year, works in construction and meets a woman. After that, he decides to travel to Spain and walk around there for a while.
He mostly busks for a living. When the Spanish Civil War starts, he has to leave the country, but he eventually returns in 1937, by way of hiking through the Pyrenees.
Laurie Lee’s honesty
The book is a mixed bag. Lee seems to be a rather honest travel writer. Not only does he write about walking around and staying here and there, but he also describes getting drunk and meeting women. Oh, and I found it interesting to see him getting involved with Spanish socialists right before the Civil War.
There were a few sentiments that I could deeply relate to, like this one:
“I felt once again the unease of arriving at night in an unknown city – that faint sour panic which seems to cling to a place until one has found oneself a bed.”
So far so good.
The problem is that Lee’s first love is apparently poetry, and so his writing style can be a bit ornate. He basically likes piling metaphor upon metaphor. Of course this doesn’t have to be a bad thing per se, but in this particular case it felt a bit forced sometimes, and it slowed down the storytelling quite a bit.
I found myself grateful that it wasn’t a big book.
who might want to read this
Lee’s feat of walking around Spain on the advent of the Civil War is cool. His storytelling is good, his writing style is a bit too poetic. The insights and observations he shares are alright.
If you’re into Spain right before the Civil War, give this one a try.
Also read: Fritz Mühlenweg, for a travel account from another part of the world, a mere decade earlier.