27 May 2012

Books: Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury (1957)

Dandelion Wine is a semi-autobiographical novel by Ray Bradbury, is set in the summer of 1928. Douglas Spaulding, a 12-year-old boy, is loosely patterned after Bradbury. Most of the book is focused upon the routines of Green Town (Bradbury’s real home town of Waukegan, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago) where the comings and goings of small-town America are divined by the simple joys of yesteryear.

One day, while out looking for wild grapes with his father and brother, Douglas wakens to the fact that he is alive. He confides his realizations to his brother, Tom, and records them in a yellow nickel pad as they accumulate through the summer. Life’s bounty presents new tennis shoes, stories of buffalo stampedes by old Colonel Freeleigh, and the affection of and for John Huff, a neighborhood buddy. Family rituals provide another part, especially the monthly gathering of dandelions for wine making. Douglas wishes wonderful summer would stay put. It will not. Beloved John Huff moves away. Tennis shoes wear. The storyteller dies. Another vision assails the boy: Douglas Spalding will die someday.

Less a novel than a collection of richly plotted vignettes (it began, originally as short story published in 1953) about the birth of a brilliant writer, and the remembrances of a childhood where summers lasted forever and mysteries and magic where on the lips of boys.

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