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A Rose for Winter

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He writes like an angel, and conveys the pride and vitality of the humblest Spanish life with unfailing sharpness, zest and humour - Sunday Times

Andalusia is a passion - and fifteen years after his last visit Laurie Lee returned. He found a country broken by the Civil War, but the totems of indestructible Spain survive; the Christ in agony, the thrilling flamenco cry, the gypsy intensity in vivid whitewashed slums, the cult of the bullfight, the exultation in death, the humour of hopelessness and the paradoxes deep in the fiery bones of Spain. Rich with kaleidoscopic images, A Rose for Winter is as evocative as the sun-scorched landscape of Andalusia itself.

Cover Photograph: Irene Lamprakou

122 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1955

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About the author

Laurie Lee

92 books229 followers
Laurence Edward Alan "Laurie" Lee, MBE, was an English poet, novelist, and screenwriter. His most famous work was an autobiographical trilogy which consisted of Cider with Rosie (1959), As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning (1969) and A Moment of War (1991). While the first volume famously recounts his childhood in the idyllic Slad Valley, the second deals with his leaving home for London and his first visit to Spain in 1934, and the third with his return in December 1937 to join the Republican International Brigade.

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5 stars
233 (28%)
4 stars
362 (43%)
3 stars
193 (23%)
2 stars
34 (4%)
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9 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 75 reviews
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,064 reviews1,473 followers
June 15, 2021
I can acknowledge that this is not a perfect book, but I read it at the perfect time for me. I couldn't rest due to the oppressive heat and so was looking for something heady and evocative to immerse my sleep-deprived self into. This definitely delivered everything I sought it out for and I flew through the brief volume, completing it as the sun rose to scorch another day.

This is an autobiographical piece covering Lee's ventures around Andalusia, an agricultural region in Spain. It gave some information about the author during this time, but it mostly read like an ode to the places he visited. They were fully depicted and vividly brought to life through attention to the most minute of details, rather than a full image of the scene as a whole ever being delivered. Every sense was used and I felt the grit between my toes and sniffed at the thick, salt-laden air as the author conjured them.

This does, however, prove a product of its time with some culturally inappropriate and sexist comments made. I also skipped over the few brief scenes involving animal torture. It was the beauty surrounding these distasteful, but mercifully scant and brief, inclusions that had me so wholly enamoured and I will close this review with a few of my favourite quotes:

"Most Spanish towns were lapped with noise, with wagons and motor-horns, donkeys and tinkers, and the ceaseless clamour of cafe conversation. But here there was an almost unearthly silence, cool and becalmed, a silence of no time. We threaded around the narrow cobbled streets, and small dogs slept in shadows as though bred only for sleep... I felt we had stepped aside from all the activity of the earth and entered a charmed and voiceless world, a world where people lived as hushed as plants, taking their life from the sun without a sound."

"It is all part of the special femininity of Seville, a mixture of gaiety and langour. For among so much that is harsh and puritan in this country, Seville is set apart like a mistress, pampered and adored... men turn to Seville as a symbol; it is the psyche of their genius, the coil that regenerates their sharpest pleasures and instinct. The miner from the Asturias and the fisherman from Cartagena, though never having set foot in it, will speak of the city with jealousy and love. So Seville remains, favoured and sensual, exuding from the banks of its golden river a miasma of perpetual excitement, compounded of those appetites that are most particularly Spanish"

"this is the city where, more than in any other, one may bite on the air and taste the multitudinous flavours of Spain - acid, sugary, intoxicating, sickening but flavours which, above all in a synthetic world, are real as nowhere else."

"As the sun sank, the bright paper landscape crumpled and contorted with savage shadows. The bare furrowed foothills of the Sierras writhed and dimpled like brains. And the snows, from the vivid incandescence of daylight, turned pink, mauve, purple, cold as slate, like the face of a dying man slowly drained of his blood."

"At first there was nothing - a profound blue darkness running running deep, laced by skeins of starlight and pale phosphorescent flashes. This four o-clock hour was a moment of utter silence, the indrawn breath of dark, the absolute, trance-like balance between night and day. Then, when it seemed that nothing would ever move or live or know the light again, a hot wind would run over the invisible water. It was like a fore-blast of the turning world, an intimation that its rocks and seas and surfaces still stirred against the sun. One strained one's eyes, scarce breathing, searching for a sign. Presently it came. Far in the east at last the horizon hardened, an imperceptible line dividing sky and sea, sharp as a diamond cut on glass. A dark bubble of cloud revealed itself, warmed slowly, flushing from within like a seed growing, a kernel ripening, a clinker hot with locked-in fire. Gradually the cloud throbbed red with light, then suddenly caught the still unrisen sun and burst like an expanding bomb. Flares and streamers began to fall into the sea, setting all things on fire. After the long unthinking darkness everything now began to happen at once. The stars snapped shut, the sky bled green, vermillion tides ran over the water, the hills around took on the colour of firebrick, and the great sun drew himself at last raw and dripping from the waves. Scarlet, purple, and clinker-blue, the morning, smelling of thyme and goats, of charcoal, splintered rock and man's long sojourn around this lake"
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,780 reviews1,458 followers
December 26, 2022
A Rose for Winter takes readers back to Spain after the Civil War. Fifteen years have elapsed since Laurie Lee’s previous visit. His wife is with him this time. In my view, the book can be viewed as a continuation of Lee’s autobiographical trilogy. It should be read after the trilogy. He travels around Andalucia of southern Spain. The civil war has lacerated the land as well as its people leaving indelible scars. Lee writes with both humor and deep empathy of the land’s both poor and yet also proud people. He writes of ancient traditions, of the flamenco dance and bullfighting for example.

We experience Christmas in Granada. Here we also visit gypsy caves, women making lace and the ancient Moorish palace, fortress and citadel Alhambra. In the beloved Andalucian capital of Seville, tapas, bandits and the Sierra Mountains are spoken of. From the Port of Algeciras, known for its rampant smuggling, one views both the Rock of Gibraltar and Morocco.

What makes the book special and above the ordinary is the prose. Beautiful, heartfelt and knowledgeable are the adjectives that come to mind. The ways and traditions of another culture come alive through Lee’s prose.

Sean Baker reads the audiobook just perfectly. He sounds sort of like Laurie Lee himself. He has the same rhythm. Every word is easily heard. Five stars definitely for this excellent narration! This is a narrator I want to listen to again in the future!


*Down in the Valley: A Writer's Landscape 3 stars

Laurie Lee’s Autobiographical Trilogy
1.Cider with Rosie 4 stars
2.As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning 4 stars
3.A Moment of War 4 stars
4.A Rose for Winter 4 stars

Profile Image for Mark.
393 reviews306 followers
October 29, 2012
My first experience of Lee was 'Cider with Rosie' at 14 and i full on loathed it. We analyzed and dissected it into tiny pieces during my O Level studies at school and that quite often signals the death knell for love of a book unless it is of particular perfection. CwR, in my opinion was not. It was years before I picked up another Lee and then it was 'As i walked out one Midsummer morning' which was volume two of his biograpy or memoir and I loved it. Since then i have also read 'A Moment of War', the final volume and so when i saw this lying in a pile in another second hand book shop I picked it up in respect of the latter experiences rather then the first one. It doesn't disappoint.

Lee and his wife are returning to Spain 15 years after he last visited it and they arrive in the isolated and poverty stricken Spain of Franco against whom Lee had tried to wage battle, none too successfully, in 'A moment of War'

"It did not take more than five minutes to wipe out fifteen years and to return me whole to this thorn-cruel, threadbare world, sombre with dead and dying Christs, brassy with glittering Virgins"

In this sentence you encounter the Lee you are going to be accompanied by throughout his couple of months exploring this re-discovered Spain. He is a poet, he is a man brimming over with memory and yet full of expectation that he will find primitive superstition and ecclesial power walking hand in hand. He is, in part, right of course but as the rediscovering goes on he falls in love again with the magnificent beauty and wildness of Spain, he finds people and views and welcome which take his breath away and humble him.

Palm trees exploded darkly overhead

The foothills climbed in writhing terraces...flashed among drifting clouds like a string of jagged moons

Granada's winter air is a killer, moving so slow it will slay a man yet not seem strong enough to blow out a candle

On the flamenco

The man is all voice; the woman all pride and hunger. While his song climbs into ecstasies of improvisation she coils in toils and sobs and throbs around him. And always there is the invisible guitar, whipping them delicately from the darkness, feeding their secret fevers

Wow, that is some seductive and sensual picture he paints. He is deeply in love with this people and this place and it comes alive in his writing. He describes bread making and olives and wine with such affection and yearning that I was pleased i was reading this on holiday and able to indulge my taste buds whilst reading it.

The cottage in which I was staying was on the shore of Derwentwater, a beautiful lake in Cumbria. Light pollution from Keswick, two miles or so away curtailed my adoration of the night sky a little though not as much as when i am in Poole where the street lights ravage the night sky with their horrible bright fingers but Lee describes stars in such a way that you close your eyes and are there with him seeing them clearly inspite of your own actual experience of 21st Century Western night skys.

At another time he speaks of daybreak

Gradually the cloud throbbed red with light, then suddenly caught the still unrisen sun and burst like an expanding bomb.....after the long unthinking darkness everything now began to happen at once. The stars snapped shut, the sky bled green, vermillion tides ran over the water, the hills around took on the colour of firebrick and the great sun drew himself at last raw and dripping from the waves

Excuse the long quote but it was so lovely, so clever, so just right.

There is humour and fun. He pokes fun at himself, at his wife who yet is adored and feted by every mortal spaniard they appear to meet whether male or female, at his hosts and at his companions on the journey but the poking fun is gentle and affectionate.

Careering, as i am, towards the big 50 next year i have begun to learn the cello. At the moment it sounds remarkably like I am slaughtering my cat for 15 minutes every day and I feel for my poor teacher. Lee spoke of his taking lessons on the guitar whilst staying in Seville and reported it thusly and i feel it is how Amanda, my teacher, must feel:

After an hour's examination, during which he tested all my faulty coordinations, he would hand me a page of exercises and bid me take them twice a day. Then with a little bow, his chin resting mournfully upon his paper tie, he would leave me to visit his next patient

I could load quote upon quote but i have tried to give a small sample to try to show the type of book it is. It is a travelogue in which he shares his thoughts and experiences and enables us to taste just a little of his love. The harshness and difficulty of the life of the poor in Spain is made clear and he in no way tries to lessen it, he wishes us to see the beauty whlst feeling the pain and it is, to use a horribly overused phrase, a lovely extended love letter to this place which has been so influential on his past and therefore on his future.

My only caveat in my endless hymn of praise is one totally based on personal feelings. Lee, like so many other writers before and since, goes into ecstasy over bullfighting. The magnificence of the spectacle, of the beauty of the matadors, of the raw power of the bulls but i always struggle with how this cruelty can ever be seen as anything but brutal savagery. I realize Lee was writing this in 1955 or so and the world and our outlook on so many things has changed and so maybe I need to take that into consideration but at one point he remarks on how one of the bulls comes into the ring and cowers in terror against the wall and is pricked and barbed and forced into fighting. It turned my stomach in October 2012, I cannot believe that would not have done the same had i been there in April 1955.

Profile Image for Lazaros Karavasilis.
187 reviews39 followers
January 16, 2019
Μερικές φορές δεν καταλαβαίνω τα κριτήρια με τα οποία κατατάσσουμε ένα έργο ως 'κλασσικό', και ως ότι 'πρέπει να το διαβάσεις'. Εδώ στην Αγγλία αυτό το έργο θεωρείται κλασσικό και μιλάμε για μια χώρα που έχει σοβαρή παράδοση στα 'κλασσικά μυθιστορήματα'. Αλλά έτσι είναι όταν χάνεις την ψηφοφορία στη λέσχη ανάγνωσης.
Ταξιδιωτική λογοτεχνία λοιπόν με τύπο που γυρίζει στην Ισπανία του 1950 (;) μετά απο 20 χρόνια, για να κάνει το κομμάτι του.
Γιατί να μας ενδιαφέρει εμάς σαν αναγνώστες; Ποιό είναι το νόημα αυτού του ταξιδιού; Το κάνει για να βρεί τη ψυχή του; Δεν το διασαφηνίζει ο συγγραφέας. Είναι σαν να είδα ένα αδιάφορο επεισόδιο απο αυτές τις ταξιδιωτικές εκπομπές της τηλεόρασης. Του δίνω 1 αστεράκι για κάποιες καλές σκηνές που ήταν απειροελάχιστες.
Θα μπορούσα να γράψω και άλλα, αλλά έχουμε και δουλειές και καλύτερα βιβλία να διαβάσουμε.
Profile Image for Zoeb.
170 reviews35 followers
March 29, 2021
Just as the blurb of my beautifully old Penguin edition of the book puts it, "Laurie Lee writes with a beauty to match his passion." I could not have said it better.

"A Rose For Winter" is Lee's slim yet exceptionally profound account of his prodigal return to Spain, the astonishingly, savagely beautiful country where he had wandered fifteen years ago as something of a bohemian with a violin and little else. In the passage of those fifteen years, Spain had been battered and nearly broken by the brutal ferocity of the Civil War as well as the devastating fallout of the Second World War and so, as Lee returns now, as a slightly (only slightly) domesticated version of the young man who had started on his wandering trail from his home in Cotswold, Spain too seems to have changed slightly; only slightly, I repeat, for as this wonderfully concise and almost eye-widening, poetic and vivid account reveals, the freewheeling, languid, pagan, Christian, sun-kissed, somnolent, sensual and savage country too has remained more or less the same as it has always been, still capable of surprising, astonishing and seducing him and us as well.

Through the course of these vividly recounted 122 pages, we follow Lee and his wife Kati traverse this familiar but still magical and mysterious terrain crammed in the most unexpected corners with new and incredible discoveries, about the fallen and downtrodden gypsies, about the pompous and affable keepers of taverns, about the young men with their inexhaustible yearning for romance and melancholy, the young women with their sensual gift of song and animal grace, each one of which makes for such mesmerising writing that you can almost imagine it unfolding in front of your eyes. Lee's prose, as others will know quite well, is not only sensuous and rich, not merely picturesque and evocative, but most crucially, so perfectly orchestrated and calibrated so that we never tire of reading his descriptions of this mystical, mysterious and unabashedly beautiful landscape. Any other writer would have made us thirst for a break, for some interval of reflection between the chronicles but Lee rarely makes us feel that need because he knows, like a dexterous storyteller, the gift of both excitement and elegiac retrospection, of tension and romance, of piquant humour and poignant emotion and also of a deeper, incisive but never exhausting understanding of what Spain and its culture really stands for.

The book is neatly divided into six chapters, each in a different town or city and through such a masterful display of neat economy, Lee helps us know the different and paradoxical sides of the country with flawless, immaculate skill. There is both the crooked trade of the contrabandistas and the nocturnal serenades of Algeciras, facing Gibraltar across the sea; there are the choirs of the beggar girls and the suspenseful corridas to be witnessed of Seville; there is the sun-baked isolation and the warm, fraternal atmosphere to be savoured in Ecija, the City of the Sun; there are the still grandiose Moorish ruins of Granada as well as the unmistakable air of Spanish frivolity in its streets; there are the echoes of failed promises and hopes in the fishing village of Castillo and finally, in the last and sixth chapter, there is one more nostalgic and poignant return to the streets of Algeciras as Lee finally bids a reluctant and heart-rending farewell to this land on his return to England.

And through these six chapters, each one glowing with not merely spectacular, stunning descriptions of Spain that people have already come to expect from this writer as well as alternately humorous, tender and thoughtful vignettes, scenes and personal episodes with a cast of fascinating characters from the heart of the country, we also are rewarded with a wealth of unforgettable, indelible and vivid scenes - the confusion of the Continental tourists trapped at the inns of Algeciras in the midst of a storm, the tense, thrilling glory of the bull-fight and the romantic, daredevil toreros who win the hearts of the ladies; the single file of widows clad in black walking under the harsh sun of Ecija; the deathly cold wind of Alhambra that can take lives in the stealthiest fashion and, most stirringly, a sunrise at the sea in Castillo followed by a vain and desperate venture by the poor fishermen to get some fresh harvest back into the coast.

It is in countless scenes like these, both big and small, both epic and intimate, that Lee portrays fully and cohesively a country only broken and cracked in its facades in the wake of the upheavals preceding the present day and still standing still as ever, still not changed beyond recognition and also a land that will continue, hopefully, to defy change itself.

No other book, in my opinion and honestly limited experience of travel reading, will absorb you so completely into a country's intoxicating charms and incorruptible beauty as this one. "A Rose For Winter", true to its magical title, is beautiful, sensuous, poetic and profound and it will make you thirst for a drink of the sweet rich wine and a sight of the colourful, kaleidoscopic marvel that we call Spain.
Profile Image for Jean Marriott.
189 reviews2 followers
May 30, 2018
If I could I would give more than 5 * to this book. Laurie Lee has been my one favourite writers ever since I read 'Cider with Rosie'. His travel writing is poetic and lyrical, his description are beautiful. This book is about a return journey to Spain 15 years after the end of the Civil War. Lee had traveled and fell in love with Spain before the war.
2 reviews
February 6, 2022
Laurie Lee's power was both rare and compulsory in a writer; he was a fluent and ready translator of the gleam in his eye, the spirit of adventure, and I was delighted that there was more to his Spanish obsession.

Lee's world of blue-grey sunsets and woodsmoke-scented hair is thick and slathered on like chunky marmalade; he drinks in the rich noises and smells of a Spanish village in festivity like a man in thirst, jumping straight into the carnival. Nobody believes he is English.
Moments of joy and fervour are brighter for the realities of the sadness of post-war Spain, and he does not discern between the two. Each merges into the same trickle of images; and the vein of the spirit of adventure runs throughout, carrying naturally between moments. He never rots in a self-indulgence. The pulse of this country is all passion and instinct, and he returns to be swept along in its festivals as if in a current.

Fifteen years after his experiences in the Spanish civil war he returns, for the first time, as a tourist. He is no longer a beggar, a soldier or a prisoner, but accomplished; he has money and a wife. He still has a pincer-like grip on the pulse of rural Spain, still the attitude of living and dying being as one, and once again nearly succumbs to it.
Profile Image for C1-10P yana.
99 reviews
May 26, 2019
After reading a few snippets when I picked it up, my hopes were soaring high. Lee's opening few paragraphs describing Granada are one of the most poignant on the topic. Sadly, his landscape descrptions are the only redeeming quality of his narrative.

We get occasional glints of stunning prose, from inbetween the extravagant sexualiation of school girls and the treatment of women as though they're nothing more than the static decoration to his travels.

This slim travel novel will give you an idealized version of men's lives in Spain of the 50s through the eyes of someone who envies the culture of macho bravado. I doubt he loved Spain as much as he loved gallivating through Spain like one of the lads, invincible in their brotherhood and at the same time declaring himself innocent of their behaviour's implications because he's foreign. I cannot remember an example of a conversation with a woman for the entire book, even though every single male character is given a rhapsodic, almost biblical homage. Other than that, no attempt to understand the ways of life around him is shown.

In essence, it's a game of blending in and playing along. Our author openly revels in it and definitely doesn't skip any opportunity to either sing the praises of the "swaggering" machos with faces like a "gypsy's warning" or to lament how "today their claws are clipped and rhethoric their only weapon".

Beautiful writing. Heartbreaking and ocassionally disturbing message. Not sure why anyone has thought that describing schoolgirls as sexual is a-okay, provided it's done by a poet abroad.
Profile Image for Marius van Blerck.
199 reviews32 followers
December 13, 2009
This is one of Laurie Lee's lesser-known books, telling of his third journey through Spain almost 20 years after he first wandered into the country, busking with his violin. In his second visit he went back to Spain, at the outbreak of the Civil War, and found himself fighting for the Republicans. Told in a simple but lyrical style, Laurie Lee's use of language is breathtaking. His feeling for the people he meets and the places he visits are expressed in words that are hard to describe. This book is simply wonderful!
Profile Image for Michael.
24 reviews
September 22, 2021
Ruggedly sexualised descriptions of women and girls abound demonstrates two things to the reader: that the opposite sex for Laurie was nothing more than an object to be commented upon in a manner which strips the real women he met of any dignity, and that he was (and this is confirmed by his other writings and his personal life) probably a nonce.

I felt like I had to finish the last book in the Spanish trilogy, if only because I had become so accustomed to his work and because I couldn't find any English language works on Spain which explore the peninsula both before, during, and after the civil war which weren't boresome political histories.

Laurie believed that in spite of the efforts of American Nuclear Bases and dollars, along with the machinations of the Catholic Church and the machinations of a Fascist state, that the Old Spain could never be eradicated. This Old Spain is neither of 'Catholic Kings' nor Europe, it is a mish-mash of Islamic and European extraction and subsequently squashed into a weird little box.

Across just over a hundred pages, Laurie and one of his wives explore the dirty streets, the dusty hills, the blood stained bull rings and the dimly lit bars of this 'Old Spain' which seems to be at ends with the 'New Spain' Franco was attempting to build.
In between ogling children and chatting to drunk fishermen, Laurie attempts to paint a vivid picture of the Spain which will never die. In typical fashion, Laurie crafts delicate and poetic prose in order to do this. Ultimately, Laurie was wrong, the folkish ways of 'Old Spain' did die and the Spain Laurie describes here is so distant from Modern Spain that this text is probably best viewed as a primary source rather than a piece of literature.

It's frustrating that Laurie is one of the only authors through which English readers can really get into this Spain of old, especially given the extremely jarring and frankly problematic descriptions of women and children. It is no small wonder that his daughter became a psychologist, the man is a wrong'un.

Giving it 1 star because the prose is very good, deducting 4 stars because he's a peadophile.
Profile Image for Ruth.
83 reviews3 followers
April 7, 2022
I opened my 1973 Penguin edition (price 30p) again for the first time since I read it back in 1974 or 5 as a teenager. Although chronologically this comes after Cider with Rosie and As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning this was the first of those three to be written and published. It appeared in 1955 about a visit he made to Spain over the winter of 1951-2. He acknowledges both the BBC and the London Magazine for the right to include certain material so I imagine he used part of the text in articles or broadcasts first. While his prose is rich and evocative some of his attitudes do feel dated, not surprising reading it over 60 years later. He seems careful not to be too critical of the Franco regime despite having enlisted in the International Brigade to fight against nationalist forces during the civil war; may this have been due to the red pencil of a commissioning editor? However the Spain he evokes here and in As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning captured my imagination, led me to Lorca, Gerald Brennan and other writers and a lifelong love of this country.
Profile Image for Heather.
41 reviews1 follower
August 10, 2023
If you like hemingway vibes, this is that but more lyrical and romantic and sentimental
Profile Image for Marcus.
569 reviews14 followers
March 31, 2022
More beautiful, descriptive writing from Mr Lee. That said I didn't find much to enjoy in this brief return to Spain. We get great detail on slaughter, bull fights, more implausible translations of the natives and a mysterious companion called Kati who is given no characterisation beyond her attractiveness. There was also his fevered, brush with death I suppose.
Profile Image for Tom.
218 reviews
March 3, 2018
I have been meaning to read Lee for a while and when a friend lent me this book, I couldn't resist. I know this isn't one of his best known works but it is a very enjoyable read. His writing style and content reflects his true passions in life, namely his longing for travel and his love of poetry. The prose is almost magical in its rhythm and meter.

A Rose For Winter covers a trip to Southern Spain that Laurie and his wife Kati took in the 1950s. They had visited this part of the world 15 years before and returned to a country which had been stricken by civil war and the resulting poverty. A country in which noone trusted their neighbour due to the suspicion and reputation of the secret police. Lee is able to take all this, with a real sense of personal sorrow, and bring out the underlying spirit of the Iberian/Moorish people and culture.

I have a sense, both from this book and what I've read about Lee, that he is better than any advertising travel company in evoking the emotions of the very soul of what travel should be. The way Laurie and his wife ingratiate themselves with everyone they meet, are willing to follow their noses, ears and eyes in a spontaneous fashion at every opportunity and take part in/witness everything that makes the region special, from bullfighting to flamenco to cuisine, gives the reader as close a sense as you can imagine to the essence of Southern Spain.

In some ways I feel that A Rose for Winter has come to represent a critique of a 21st century approach to travel. Fleeting visits, weekend breaks and whistle stop tours do not reach beneath the surface of a country's skin to find its heart and in many ways, that is a genuine shame.

Doubtless Spain has changed in countless ways since Lee's visit but I'm sure that if one were able to spend an extended period there, you would make the same discoveries that Lee brings out in this book.
Profile Image for Sandra.
657 reviews33 followers
January 9, 2016
Spain is but Spain, and belongs nowhere but where it is. It is neither Catholic nor European but a structure of its own, forged from an African-Iberian past which exists in its own austere reality and rejects all short-cuts to a smoother life. Let the dollars come, the atom-bomb air bases blast their way through the white-walled towns, the people, I feel, will remain unawed, their lips unstained by chemical juices, their girls unslacked, and their music unswung. For they possess a natural resistance to civilization´s most superficial seductions, based partly on the power of their own poetry, and partly on their incorruptible sense of humour and dignity.

Un británico viaja por Andalucía en el año 1955 . Solamente por allí. Miseria, fiesta, toros, flamenco, comida y algún pescador. Demasiado misticismo. Demasiadas mujeres morenas irresistibles y muchos más hombres galantes, borrachos y pendencieros, o las dos cosas a la vez. Ha sido como leer un cuento de Washington Irving, con la misma carga de irrealidad.

No me interesa la prosa. Me obsesiona la perspectiva. El todo que ven los de fuera cuando los de dentro no sabemos identificarnos con ese todo ni con una parte. Más de una al mismo tiempo ya supone un conflicto. Algunos optan por la nada. La únicas poesías que llevo conmigo son las coplas y el jardín que desangra en amarillo de Lorca. La dignidad, perdida. El humor, podrido. España se ha rendido a los encantos superficiales de la civilización...
Profile Image for Nick.
Author 21 books104 followers
September 23, 2012
After the Spanish Civil War, WWII and many years, Laurie Lee returns to Spain, the site of his poetic, haunting autobiographical story, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning. Then he was essentially penniless, and supported himself playing the violin in the street for change, making friends along the way with a wild assortment of poets, madmen, and seers. This time, sadly, he's a tourist, staying in decent hotels and occasionally making friends with the waiters and hotel staff. He goes to bullfights and makes generalizations about the towns he visits that would fill a respectable guidebook from the era. But it all seems dated, and a bit sad, because the book lacks the deep, hard-won insight of the earlier book. He's writing as beautifully as ever, but he's not seeing as deeply, and the book is more postcard than poem.
298 reviews2 followers
July 16, 2018
This is the first book by Laurie Lee that I’ve read, and I wasn’t particularly impressed. He made his literary reputation on his three-volume autobiography, the final book recounting his experiences fighting against Franco in Spain. Any of these books would probably be a better choice, but I chose this one because I, too, was traveling in Andalusia. Lee returned to southern Spain 15 years after the war had ended, and his account is full of nostalgia and regret, recalling companions long dead or exiled from Franco’s Spain. Lee contrasts the hopeful idealism of the anti-Franco forces during the war to the depressed hopelessness of Franco Spain 15 years later. I, meanwhile, marveled at the pleasure-seeking tourist haven of the Costa del Sol some sixty years after that. The times they are a-changing.
7 reviews
March 21, 2010
Unless you are keen on hearing someone's holiday tales then this isnt the book for youm
Profile Image for Caroline Scott.
Author 7 books188 followers
January 4, 2016
Old-school, full-fat, simile-stuffed descriptive tourism. And a joy for it.
Profile Image for Alex.
9 reviews
June 6, 2017
The Romance of travel writing

Without a doubt the best form of escape, all the humour of being an Englishman abroad put into the poetic frame of 'going native'.
Profile Image for Lesley Tilling.
82 reviews
November 14, 2021
The most wonderful evocation of Spain in the 1950s. I suppose Franco sat on Spain hard and refused to allow modernisation, and Spain kept to its old traditions of bullfights and the Catholic Church and festivals. In the distance, snow-topped peaks gleam in the spring sun. Laurie Lee reports heart-rendingly on poverty amongst the villagers and fishermen and he chats to begging children everywhere. He wanted to know what had happened to his friends who fought in the Civil War, and concludes that no one can bear to tell the truth about it.

The writing is lovely; this is a poet writing prose and he composes each sentence with such care and style: whole passages shine like jewels.

I don't know whether we should judge writers by their mores if they lived in a time which we did not. It had never occurred to Lee that he should want more for women than what they wanted for themselves, let's put it that way. Once he comments about a hotel-keeper's wife who cooks dish after delicious dish but never comes out of the kitchen to hear his praise. His own wife is clearly a source of pride; popular with women and lusted after by men. Laurie Lee takes pains to tell us this, but his wife is not described, neither is her speech reported (thoughts and opinions?) But DON'T let this stop you from reading this book and enjoying the bright picture of Spain you find there.
136 reviews1 follower
January 2, 2021
I've been waiting to read a book like this one ever since I first read 'Cider with Rosie'. Different subject matter, same author and same beautiful sensitivity.
Laurie Lee is a poet. He writes everything as though it's poetry. His writing lilts, it floats along, his writing carries you with him, and I love every word.
Here he writes about his younger days, when with his young wife he revisited Andalusia, a place he walked as a very young man , carrying his violin, living off the land and what people gave him. In this book, about that land, later revisited, he writes about a time when he could almost still relive that life. Food, wine and cognac were cheap. People easily became his friends, and as such they shared their food and companionship with him in equal measure. A tale of an idyllic time in a beautiful country.
His descriptions of time and place are written as only he is able. His descriptions of sights, sounds and smells takes the reader to the centre of everything he describes.
There's no tale in this. There's no plot or story, it's just pure, beautiful descriptive writing.
I enjoyed every word in this book. Wonderful
118 reviews
June 11, 2023
1950s travelogue in Spain, written by an old school Englishman. I think it drew attention because it really is pretty, describing many of the core travel experiences in Spain in gorgeous detail. The writing is the best part, dancing along in a kind of blog form, 60 years before the blog. If you are going to read this, read it for the beauty of the writing.

I enjoyed it in a historical sense. This is a throwback in time, with all the biases and old school thought and it is interesting to read in that sense. Lee is enlightened for the time, but wealthy, and has much of the condescension of the wealthy. But he does try to describe the Spanish, and when he gets away from the assumptions and biases, he is at his best. Usually this happens when some Spanish character is decidedly outside of his norms and then it gets a little more interesting.

A short simple pretty old-fashioned narrative about travels in Spain. That's about it!
Profile Image for Richard Newbold.
133 reviews
January 25, 2018
An anomaly in the chronology of Laurie Lee's ouevre in that though the events described in "A Rose for Winter" happened in Andalusia years after those of his two most famous works "Cider With Rosie" and "As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning", this book was published before them. Anyhoo, it's as a travelogue that I fell in love with this book, and now that I am visiting Andalusia regularly, rereading it makes for a great appetiser for each trip. A mix of lyrical narrative, pathos and homage to Spain's unique and indomitable spirit (under the murderous tyranny of Franco and the Fascists), its timeless poetic quality is moving and quite irresistible. Strangely it's the town of Algeciras, now an unlovely port and the hub for the Spanish petrochemical industries, in which the essence of Spain is evoked most vividly - though ironically I've yet to visit it.
107 reviews1 follower
July 23, 2022
Een prachtig verslag van de reis die Laurie Lee met zijn vrouw Kati maakte in Andalucië in de winter van 1951/1952. Het paar bezoekt Algeciras, Sevilla, Écija, Granada en een niet met name genoemde plaats (Almuñecar, Salobreña?). Andalucië is heel erg arm en er is nog weinig toerisme. Lee beschrijft de primtieve reizen die ze maken van de ene plaats naar de andere, die plaatsen zelf en de vele ontmoetingen die ze hebben op een levendige, beeldende manier, heel mooi. Als hij in Granada ernstig ziek wordt wordt hij liefdevol verzorgd door het personeel van zijn hotel. Opvallend is dat sommige Spanjaarden ware dichters blijken te zijn. Er wordt ongelooflijk veel alcohol wordt gedronken, ook door Lee zelf.
Net als bij de drie andere boeken die ik van Lee gelezen heb was ik zeer onder de indruk van zijn schrijfstijl.
Profile Image for Veronica.
774 reviews112 followers
July 26, 2020
Following up on our recent reading of As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning. Inevitably it doesn't have the impact of Lee's first experience of Spain, but it still has some beautiful writing, especially in the part set in Granada. I could have done without the nauseating descriptions of bullfights, in fact we ended up skipping them, and it's kind of odd that Lee mostly avoids mentioning the fact that Spain is suffering under the dictatorship of Franco.
Profile Image for Caitlin.
33 reviews2 followers
April 23, 2022
A beautiful, very English homage to the south of Spain. Laurie Lee writes with such fine descriptiveness and colour that you can almost see and smell what he's describing. There were some very curious translations of what the locals were saying. There is an extremely common phrase in Spanish, when you wish to offend or show contempt, that is literally translated as "I sh*t on ____," which Lee translates as "I pollute ___," which is so English and proper that it makes me wonder if it was Lee who was a bit prudish or if it was a translation choice made for the English readers of the time (this was first published in 1955). Excited to read his books about his earlier experiences in Spain.
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