''I was nineteen years old, still soft at the edges, but with a confident belief in good fortune. I carried a small rolled-up tent, a violin in a blanket, a change of clothes, a tin of treacle biscuits, and some cheese. I was excited, vain-glorious, knowing I had far to go; but not, as yet, how far. As I left home that morning and walked away from the sleeping village, it never occurred to me that others had done this before me.'' Despite this romantic and optimistic opening, what Lee finds and describes is the most primitive and feudal country in Europe, a peninsula for the most part untouched by the modern world, a land of labor without dignity, a church devoid of compassion, and a country ripe for revolutionary change. There is humor here, and love, and adolescent awakening, but beneath the smoothly written surface is a foreboding sense of a savage future, a premonition that a war will come, which will not end soon. For Lee, as for much of the world, 1936 was the end of innocence, a fateful year when ''it was being learned again that men needed more than courage, anger, slogans, convictions, or even a just cause when they went to war.'' Thus Lee, innocently but inexorably, becomes entangled in the passionate, violent, and bloody struggle that was the Spanish Civil War. Along with Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, Lee's sequel to Cider with Rosie is a singular document, written with the excitement and wonder of a twenty-year-old, but infused with the wisdom of a young adult who sees what lies ahead and is capable of conveying to the reader how bad it will be.
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