The Edge of Day, A Boyhood in the West of England -- "I was set down from the carrier's cart at the age of three, and there with a sense of biwilderment and terror my life in the village began..." -- Thus begins a truly lovely reading experience. Through prose that borders on poetry, we share in a rich, varied and altogether remarkable childhood -- a childhood that, for all its discomfort and poverty, was such that the author emerged from it with a deep feeling for the beauty and goodness of life.
The village, in the heart of the Cotswolds, was a microcosm -- self-sufficient and self-contained -- a world and way of life brought to an end when the first brass-lamped auto came steaming up the valley.
Here are the thin winters and the fat summers, the local legends and superstitions, the neighbors and relations. 'Er-Up-Atop and 'Er-Down-Under, for instance, were two wonderful old ladies who lived adjoining but never spoke to each other, communicating by means of broom handle and stumping of feet. They kept minute track of what each did and lived on the signs of each other's decline -- and died within days of each other.
Against the half-pagan landscape, the author grew, educated and little by the country school, a lot by the life around him -- the follies and feasts, the occasional violence and madness. Mother governed the brood -- seven children whose father had disappeared from their lives -- in a delightfully haphazard manner. Her warmth, brightness of spirit, and love of the world are all happily transmitted to these memorable pages.
As the book ends, Laurie Lee is already aware of his own gift for poetic response. It is a gift beautifully communicated; one for which we should all be grateful.