Thursday, March 29, 2007

Book Review: Farewell Summer

I was introduced to Ray Bradbury my sophomore year in high school when we were assigned Dandelion Wine. He had me from the first scene: getting new sneakers for summer because the magic had worn out from the old ones. They were, as I recall, P.F. Flyers. I knew what Mr. Bradbury was talking about because I felt that way about summer and sneakers myself. (Note: these were in the days before "athletic shoes.")

So when I discovered The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles in my school's English Resource Center, I was estatic. And I was hooked.

Farewell Summer is the sequel to Dandelion Wine and what happens in Green Town when summer is over but no one quite wants to let it go. According to the Afterword,when Mr. Bradbury delivered Dandelion Wine (then titled the Blue Remembered Hills) to the publisher, they deemed it much too long. The original title for the portion that became Dandelion Wine was Summer Morning, Summer Night.

As with Dandelion Wine, much of Farewell Summer is autobiographical. The style is a bit more mystical than I remember Dandelion Wine being, but that could be the effects of memory. The focus of Farewell Summer is the battle between youth and age and it is fought literally as well as figuratively (much like the battle between Peter Pan and Captain Hook). Doug, his brother Tom, and their companions fight against Mr. Quartermain, the head of the School Board. Mr. Quartermain doesn't remember being young. Doug does not know about being old--except that it's something to be avoided.

Doug's grandfather is wise in the way of books, the world, and boys. He is there to guide Doug to making the choices that need to be made. Tom and the other boys are the chorus who, though looking to Doug for guidance in this war, also have ideas and opinions of how the battle should be waged and fought.

In the end, Summer leaves, as Summer must. The veterans of this war have all learned much about themselves, about each other, about the world.

Had I read this when I read Dandelion Wine, its impact would have been much different than now, when I am on the downhill slope of life. I recognize the battles with a foot in each camp. I'd be interested in reading a younger reader's reaction to it.

For Bradbury himself, is also in a much different place than when he wrote the first draft of Farewell Summer. So there is a tinge of nostalgia in this book, for battles fought long ago and a time and a place that no longer exists. But I remember Green Town and I remember the summer I turned 13.

Thank you, Mr. Bradbury, for the memories.

On the March Hare Scale: 4 out 5 Golden Bookmarks