The Edge of Day by Laurie Lee
My introduction to Laurie Lee was the essay Appetite which I came across a few years ago and which enthralled me utterly within the first paragraph and to this day it stands out in my memory from the countless times I read it just to savor the language. Two days ago, I asked myself the plain and simple question of why I hadn't reached out for more Laurie Lee when I so loved his writing from that tantalizing morsel of an essay I'd sampled, and I when I couldn't find a satisfying answer obtained this book.
It was a random pick for my next Lee, dictated by the fact that its the only thing by this author at my local public library. Luckily my interest was acute enough for me to take a chance on this, even though from briefly perusing the reviews on here I realized it might not be the best introduction to his writing.
I had enormous expectations going into this. For me, Lee is a wordsmith and I wanted to watch his performance of language in this book. I was disappointed because I wasn't as impacted by the writing of this as by the essay Appetite, but that is not at all to say that it wasn't well written. It was still a teeming exultation of words that catapulted me into the summer of Lee's childhood. I just wasn't as blown away as I'd hoped to be. There weren't any passages I clung to with breathless awe and reread with thumping heart. But my faith is so strong in Lee, I just told myself, well its a biography and of novel length, perhaps essay and other short forms are his forte, after all he is a poet. I probably still have a great deal in store for me by this author and mustn't write him off just yet.
However, in comparison to everything else I've been reading lately, this far outstrips them all. I haven't been this engaged in a book since I read Richard Sherman's A Kindred Spirit and E B White's Once More to the Lake. This book was all things I love: dreamy meditation of summer and sunshine, youth's follies and ecstasies, and the bare facts of the mundane through the lens of an innocent child's eyes. It was very sensory, which I expected from Lee and really did transport me to this long gone way of life.
I loved also how this book had no kind of plot. I've found myself reading a lot of plot-driven stuff lately and this was a wonderful relief to experience, all quiet vignettes and observations of slice of life stuff. I like rambly, meandering, nostalgic writing. Not everyone does. This was just up my alley.
My favorite chapter was the one called Mother. I thought the description of Lee's mom was both endearing and infuriating and I just loved her! Here is an excerpt:
"She was too honest, too natural for this frightened man; too remote from his tidy laws. She was, after all, a country girl; disordered, hysterical, loving. She was muddled and mischievous as a chimney-jackdaw, she made her nest of rags and jewels, was happy in the sunlight, squawked loudly at danger, pried and was insatiably curious, forgot when to eat or ate all day, and sang when sunsets were red.”
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