I first read "The Edge of Day" about thirty years ago. It delighted and amazed me then and does so even more now. It is beautifully written and drew me in right from the first words.
Here's how it starts: "I was set down from the carrier's cart at the age of three; and there with a sense of bewilderment and terror my life in the village began. The June grass, amongst which I stood, was taller than I was, and I wept. I had never been so close to grass before. It towered above me and all around me, each blade tattooed with tiger skins of sunlight. It was knife-edged, dark and a wicked green, thick as a forest and alive with grasshoppers that chirped and chattered and leapt through the air like monkeys."
A paragraph later the author says, "For the first time in my life I was out of sight of humans." Consider that for a moment. To me, at least, it signals a very different sort of childhood from mine, or any that I know of. I had spent considerable time "out of sight of humans" long before I was three - that's how most children are raised now.
To me, this is what was facinating about this book - that it shows a way of life, a way of being, that I could not even guess at otherwise. Laurie Lee's village had a social coherence that is gone. Today's familiar sense of individuality and independance is not there. And this despite the fact that the folks of Lee's village were far more individual, eccentric, and just plain flavorful than people are in our homogenized culture. Not that Lee speaks of this directly. Rather, in scene after scene, he carries his readers into it. The equally beautiful "Lost Country Life" tells a very similar story from an objective view, describing how people lived, their tools, their customs. But Lee tells it from the inside - the reader comes to feel what this sort of childhood was like.
(This title is the American edition of "Cider with Rosie." )