I Can't Stay Long

I Can't Stay Long - Laurie Lee I dithered about my rating for I Can't Stay Long. It's a collection of short articles, essays and memoir that Lee put together from the flotsam and jetsam of papers on his study floor, and the result is somewhat uneven.Divided into three sections, Part One is a return to Slad, Lee's childhood home and the setting of his brilliant memoir, [b:Cider With Rosie|17454951|Cider With Rosie|Laurie Lee|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1362230880s/17454951.jpg|1401317]. The pieces in this section are generally 4 and 5 star worthy, particularly A Drink with a Witch and First Love.Part Two has four pieces about abstracts: Love; Appetite; Charm and Paradise. Then, The Firstborn is Lee's hymn to his wife and their first child together (though not Lee's first child, as he had fathered another daughter with a different partner earlier in life). There are some nice passages in this, but somehow it didn't quite hit the mark with me. Although there is a lot of emotion, there is also curiously a certain distance and detachment. The best piece in this section is, by far, The Village that Lost its Children. This is an account of Lee's visit to the Welsh village of Aberfan, a year after the disaster that killed 144 people, 116 of them children. In fact, this is probably the stand-out piece in the whole book. Lee captures the quiet despair of those still struggling to come to terms with a wholly-preventable loss of life; the tensions between those bereaved and those whose families escaped the disaster (but not its consequences) and the problems caused by the huge sum of money donated to the village by well-wishers from all over the world.Part Three is a series of travel sketches of some of the places Lee had visited, from Beirut to Ireland to Mexico, and points in between, including an early flight on Concorde as part of a press contingent, an experience he found distinctly underwhelming!. This is the most uneven section of the book: I found some of these articles positively boring, which was most surprising to me as I've loved all of Lee's other writings. Still, there are some good ones in there too.Overall, then, I'd give this book 3.5 if I could, but as I can't I must round down rather than up. This is a book worth reading, and then worth keeping for the gems amongst the pebbles.