One of the most beautifully written memoirs of English rural life repeats on Masterpiece Theatre in an adaptation of Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee's luminous tale of his Cotswold boyhood. Published in 1959, Cider with Rosie has sold six million copies and immortalized Slad Valley in the Cotswold Hills as part of the English literary landscape, on par with Thomas Hardy's Wessex or Wordsworth's Lake District.
Juliet Stevenson (Truly Madly Deeply; The Politician's Wife) heads the cast as Laurie's "disordered, hysterical, loving" mother Annie. Dashiell Reece plays the young Laurie and Joe Roberts the adolescent Laurie.
Emily Mortimer portrays the eerie Miss Flynn, a local beauty tortured by her promiscuity and by messages from her dead mother. The screenplay is by Emily's father John Mortimer (Rumpole of the Bailey; Summer's Lease), who draws on a wealth of Lee's singularly memorable characters, including the warring grannies, the shell-shocked soldier, the eccentric uncles, and the cider-dispensing siren, Rosie.
Lee himself provides narration, recorded before his death at age eighty-two in 1997, and featuring voluptuous observations about village festivals, a church outing, a hushed-up murder, the first kiss, and other ordinary and extraordinary incidents.
Set in the years immediately after World War I, Cider with Rosie captures a vanished era. "I belonged to that generation which saw, by chance, the end of a thousand years' life," wrote Lee of his upbringing with eight siblings and a single mother in a semi-feudal world of candlelight, horse carts, and profound solitude.
Lee's father was expected to return after the war, or later from his civil service job in London. But he never came back. "Mother struggled to keep us clothed and fed, and found it pretty hard going," wrote Lee.
But she kept going and going, with an oddball spirit that makes her one of the most endearing figures in print. "Deserted, debt-ridden, flurried, bewildered, doomed by ambitions that never came off, yet our Mother possessed an indestructible gaiety which welled up like a thermal spring."
Cider with Rosie is a Carlton Television production, and is presented on PBS by WGBH Boston. Based on the novel by Laurie Lee, it was adapted by John Mortimer and is narrated by Laurie Lee. The producer is Adrian Bate. The director is Charles Beeson. The music was composed and conducted by Geoffrey Burgon. The associate producer is Annie Rees. The executive producer is Jonathan Powell.
Masterpiece Theatre is presented on PBS by WGBH Boston. Rebecca Eaton is series executive producer. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Russell Baker is series host. Masterpiece Theatre is closed-captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers by The Caption Center at WGBH.
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