Dandelion Wine

By Ray Bradbury

Rating: 5 stars

It took me a while to get into this beautiful fictionalised memoir of life growing up in small-town midwestern America. I started it in fits and starts, but once I settled down and spent a whole afternoon on it, Bradbury’s writing worked its usual magic on me and I was drawn in to his descriptions of a world very different in space and time from my own. Our guides to Green Town, Illinois, are Douglas and Tom Spaulding, and this story is told mostly through their eyes during the summer of 1928.

Summer means that school’s out so the kids get to play, and they play as we children of the late 20th or early 21st centuries can hardly imagine. Climbing trees, kicking cans, busting each other’s noses in the presence of adults, all while glorying in being alive and young. Early on in the book, Doug Spaulding really realises that he’s alive, and later that one day he will die. He buys a pencil and tablet to write down all the best things about life: the rites, the ceremonies, and the revelations. It’s little touches like this that really make Bradbury as a writer, in my eyes.

We meet such characters as the boys’ grandfather, who makes wine from the dandelions that grow in their garden; Leo Auffmann, who makes a Happiness Machine; the newsman William Forrester and his tragic love affair and on it goes. Each character is drawn with Bradbury’s usual assurance and comes alive on the page.

Bradbury’s writing is as seductive as ever, drawing me in with its poetic grace. He made me laugh and he made me cry, especially the latter. This book is all about nostalgia, it’s about treasured memories and the formation of such memories. About bottling these up with the home made dandelion wine. About old people remembering their youth and having no regrets as they move on into the undiscovered country, about young people creating the memories that they will tell to their children, about love and loss. The loss of a dear friend who moves away or a treasured elderly relative who’s ready to die. In sum, it’s about life, and a life well lived, and a window into a life that was.

I don’t know what I would have made of it, but I wish I had read this book when I was young. It’s possible that I would have scoffed at it, but it might also be possible that I would have fallen in love as only a young person can fall in love with a book. Either way, I’ll just have to make up for it now. This book will definitely be re-read, I hope, again and again.

Book details

ISBN: 9780007284740
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Year of publication: 1957

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