Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

This post is part of the Magic Realism Blog Hop. On Monday I wrote a post about what I have learned from my year of reading magic realism books and my attempt at a definition. Yesterday I gave short summaries of the 55 magic realist books I have reviewed so far on this blog. This is the 56th book in my magic realism challenge.

An endearing classic of childhood memories of an idyllic midwestern summer from the celebrated author of ‘Farenheit 451’.

In the backwaters of Illinois, Douglas Spaulding's grandfather makes an intoxicating brew from harvested dandelions. ‘Dandelion Wine’ is a quirky, breathtaking coming-of-age story from one of science fiction's greatest writers. Distilling his experiences into "Rites & Ceremonies" and "Discoveries & Revelations", the young Spaulding wistfully ponders over magical tennis shoes, and machines for every purpose from time travel to happiness and silent travel. Based upon Bradbury's own experiences growing up in Waukegan in the 1920s, ‘Dandelion Wine’ is a heady mixture of fond memory, forgiveness, magic, the imagination and above all, of summers that seemed to go on forever.
Amazon description

I had not read any books by America's great science fiction writer and had no idea what to expect. What I found was a book that reminded me of Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee, another coming-of-age story, this time set in rural England not far from my hometown and a great favourite of mine. Both books are written by older men looking back at the golden days of their early teens. At the same time both Laurie Lee and Ray Bradbury remember the joyousness, wonderment and optimism of youth and also are able as adults to understand the world better. In particular Bradbury creates some lovely portraits of old people approaching death with dignity. Both writers enjoy a poetic love of words that shines through their descriptions, something not all readers appreciate, but I do. Bradbury's language is just beautiful.

Dandelion Wine is a series of short stories woven together by the boy's perceptions and his brother's. Each is bottled, stored and allowed to mature like the wines of the title. Each one is delightful and a pleasure to read. I enjoyed all of them. I know some people find Bradbury wordy but I loved his writing. I felt that the lushness of the writing suited the tales of golden times.

Although Bradbury is quoted as saying 'Dandelion Wine' is magic realism about my childhood, the magic realism is quite subtle and one cannot always be certain whether the magic is created by looking at the world through the eyes of a child. But then does that matter? Children believe in magic. Does it matter if the Lonely One is an evil monster or the local psychopath? Or whether Honeysuckle Ladies Lodge is really a coven of witches? The key to reading this book is to go along with it, to lay aside adult assumptions against magic. For a child the everyday world is magic realist and Bradbury conjures up that magic brilliantly. Plus there are some episodes which cannot be easily reasoned away.

Although the world Douglas inhabits is bright and magical, at the same time there is sadness in the book, as befits a realist account of childhood. There is that major disaster of childhood, the loss of a best friend, the friend's parents are moving away and suddenly taking him with them. There is illness, even a death of a much-loved family member, the end of summer and the impending return to school. And behind it all is the loss of childhood itself. This is the year when Douglas realizes: I’m ALIVE. Thinking about it, noticing it, is new. You do things and don’t watch. Then all of a sudden you look and see what you’re doing and it’s the first time, really. We as adults know that this is a sign of growing older.

The Magic Realism Blog Hop
Below are the other blogs on the Magic Realism Blog Hop. Please take time to visit them, you'll find some fascinating posts. Oh and while you're about do take part in the Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom of the post. You could win a collection of magic realism ebooks. You get free entries by commenting on this or other posts, by joining the Magic Realism Facebook page (see right) or following this blog, and lots of other ways.

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