I decided to read Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine largely because I saw that it had a sequel released last year. Now that I’ve read, I wonder how in the world you could have a sequel to a book with no discernible plot, but that’s Bradbury for you.
Dandelion Wine is hard to classify or label: it has a protagonist, but it doesn’t follow the tradition story arc model that you learned about in your English classes. I would be hard-pressed to identify any sort of climax (some ideas come to mind, but none stick out). The story is essentially a series of vignettes about being a boy in the summer: it’s based loosely on Bradbury’s own childhood.
Summer in Green Town, Illinois, in 1928 was an important one for Douglas Spaulding, a precocious 12-year-old who early in the book has a sort of divine revelation that he is alive, insofar as he suddenly has an appreciation for all things sensory and visceral, and the rest of the book is his quest to find the metaphysical importance to these things: his sense of being alive brings also the realization that he must die.
So begins what is essentially a great big poem about summer: Bradbury is a master wordsmith, and there really isn’t any clear narration in the “Top 40” kind of way, but Bradbury’s verbal masturbation. The book is worth reading for the poetry alone. His metaphor is obvious: the dandelion wine that Douglas’ grandfather brews is a literal distillation of summer, and its brewing is the consummate act of the season. But the book is as much about boyhood and youth as it is about seasonal disparities: a look at death and dying, at memory, and the folly of youthful naïveté.
This was a bit of a strange thing for me, the first Bradbury piece I’ve read that wasn’t (a) dystopian or (b) science fictional. And yet many people consider Dandelion his finest work. It’s a beautiful book, and a wonderful read, but for some reason I liked some of his other stuff a lot better. Maybe I’m just tired of summer retrospectives, since I read several last year (Bill Bryon’s Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid; Dow Mossman’s Stones of Summer).
If nothing else, everyone should read this for being part of the literary canon (at least in America) and being one of Bradbury’s best.