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A Rose for Winter (Vintage classics) by…
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A Rose for Winter (Vintage classics) (edition 2003)

by Laurie Lee

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245446,947 (3.72)14
Member:pokarekareana
Title:A Rose for Winter (Vintage classics)
Authors:Laurie Lee
Info:Vintage (2003), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 160 pages
Collections:Already Read, Your library
Rating:***
Tags:Acquired in 2010, @2010

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A Rose for Winter by Laurie Lee

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I was approved of an ARC copy of this novel through NetGalley. This review in its entirety was originally posted at caffeinatedlife.net: http://www.caffeinatedlife.net/blog/2014/07/02/review-a-rose-for-winter/

What’s really interesting about Laurie Lee’s account is how it provides readers with a glimpse of the region during the Franco era (the book was first published in 1955). There’s not a whole lot of emphasis on the presence of Franco’s regime on daily life, although the consequences of the Civil War can still be felt amongst its population, such as the case of some of the poets Lee comes across who were associated with Federico Garcia Lorca once. There’s a sort of lost romanticism to his account; I can’t imagine anyone doing some of the things he did when he was in Spain during his youth (i.e. horsing around with a thief and a blind man in Algeciras).

Having said that, the book does start off rather dryly; it only started picking up in the second chapter when the author headed over to Seville. Sometimes his narrative gives a sense of place, other times it doesn’t. His observations nonetheless provide an interesting take of daily life in the places that he visits, the poverty that was rampant in the cities, the customs and festivals that the people partake in. The reader also learns a lot about the author along the way–who he is, how he came to Spain years before this volume, his music–that it’s not necessary to read his previous autobiographies to understand this book.

Overall, I liked A Rose for Winter enough. It wasn’t wholly engrossing as I thought it would be, but it was nonetheless informative, especially his Christmas in Granada and the ebbs and flows of daily life in the region. There’s a certain level of melancholy to his experiences in Spain that’s hard not to miss, and as a classic travelogue I’m glad I had the chance to read it. ( )
  caffeinatedlife | Jul 15, 2014 |
A beautifully written evocation of post-civil war Spain, this is a book where you want to read every word. Laurie Lee has a knack for immersing himself in the lives of the people he meets, and the places he visits are interpreted through the personalities and experiences of these people. Read it before you go to Spain. ( )
  janglen | Nov 20, 2009 |
This, then, is a hymn to the pain and the passion, the beggars and the taverns, the lovers and the fighters, tyrants and romantics of Spain and the book falls into my rarest of categories; one that I would recommend without hesitation.

I was once in Seville. As soon as I had checked into my hotel I went for a walk round the block to check out the neighbourhood. To say it was hot is not doing the place justice, the exhaust fumes hung in the air, too hot and too lazy to go anywhere. The dust lay baking on the pavement. I bought some postcards and turned up a narrow side street, hoping for some shade and relief from the heat, but the sun seemed to reposition itself so that it was always overhead. With the sweat running down the back of my knees, I saw the Cruzcampo sign and ducked into a bar.

The bars in the side streets of Seville are deep and narrow. It takes time for your eyes to adjust to the darkness when you first step into this tiled cave, before you see the bar with the Cruzcampo beer pump sitting atop it, sweating despite the cool of the bar (which you realise is a comparative cool), the grill for tapas and the barman, happy to have you here.

I mumbled something about a beer and the barman produced a glass from the freezer, filled it, pushed it towards me and turned away to deal with another customer. He was a gentleman, he assumed I was a gentleman, it was understood I would be running a tab.

As I sat there writing my postcards, drinking my cold beer and glancing occasionally into the street, bleached by sunlight. I was having my foremost, formative Spanish experience.

This book is a formative Spanish experience made print. I’ve been to a few of places mentioned and it nails the character of the towns so perfectly, so absolutely, that I can almost feel the cool tiles, taste the cold beer (although Lee prefers wine).

The Spanish character is examined carefully, lovingly here. Well, the central contradiction of it at least; how can a people so obviously in love with life worship death? It’s bound up of course in a Catholicism so strong that in Seville they think they know better than the Pope what God wants, and in bullfights and music and love and feuds but there’s more to it than that, it’s the way that that mentality seems to infect every aspect of Spanish life.

I saw it myself, again in Seville. Looking in the window of a shop selling model kits there were the usual dioramas that model shops put in the window to show what you might be capable of one day, if you are patient and talented and paint the parts before assembly like you’re told. Tanks bursting through WWII houses, jeeps fording rivers and there, in the middle, a train crash. That’s right, not a train chuffing along or even doing something thrilling like unloading fruit in a goods yard, but a train derailed, with a herd of burst cows spread behind it along the track. Nice.

The moment of realisation I had looking at that scale model carnage is in every line of this book. Every word. Because Lee was a poet and it’s obvious that each sentence is constructed with the sort of care a line of poetry needs. It is writing on quite another level. One imagines Lee with notebook in one hand, glass of wine in the other, pulling together his experiences of the day, the pen and the ink on the paper describing the sword and the blood in the bullring.

The sense of place is overwhelming. If you want to know where you’re going in Spain, buy a guide book, if you want to know what people will be saying, buy a phrase book. If you want to know about the people you will be meeting, read this book.

In Almunecar, in southern Spain, there’s a monument to Laurie Lee. The town honours a man who raised his own monument in print to Spain and the Spanish. ( )
1 vote macnabbs | Jul 19, 2009 |
I'm most of the way through A Rose for Winter - Laurie Lee returns to southern Spain with his wife and its set quite a while after the civil war. Although Laurie gives beautiful descriptions that coincide with my young memories of Andalucia, Sevilla, Cadiz/Granada, and make me yearn to go back again, I feel that he has missed an opportunity in his writing to take his work beyond being a very good Travel book to being a political criticism of Facism from a foreigners perspective, in the way that, say, Hemingway does. Unless I am missing something, there is a subtle sorrow, but its not involved enough for me. I want him to get involved, instead he seems to sit on teh sidelines, sipping wine, enoying the views and the people, whilst alluding to the attrocities commited by neighbours on neighbours.
  nlavery | Feb 11, 2009 |
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GENERAL & LITERARY FICTION. Andalusia is a passion - and fifteen years after his last visit Laurie Lee returned. He found a country broken by Civil War, but the totems of indestructible Spain survive: the Christ in agony, the thrilling flamenco cry the pride in poverty, the gypsy intensity in vivid whitewashes slums, the cult of the bullfight, the exultation in death, the humour of hopelessness that paradoxes deep in the fiery bones of Spain.… (more)

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