Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury

My Copy: 9780553277531

I read, and re-read several parts of this book, and I’m still not sure what I think about it overall. I’m not gushing praise over it, but I’m not throwing it in the recycle bin, either. I think it’s just a different animal than what I’m used to seeing from Ray Bradbury. On the other hand, that’s part of the fun of reading Bradbury.

Dandelion Wine was a bit tough for me to get into at first. It took some careful reading to get the gist of what it was all about, and then it was so simple…almost. It’s a summer story, the summer of 1928 to be precise.

It’s kind of interesting because it’s a story that gets you really thinking about the minds of kids, and what they think and what they believe. The main character is 12 year old Douglas Spaulding, who spends much of the book in and out of events with his brother, Tom. Sometimes he’s the center of events, sometimes he’s reflecting on them and putting his own worldview on what’s gone on. He’s at the age where he still seems to believe in magic and other things you can’t see, but is determined to record everything that happened over the summer, the firsts and the lasts, in his notebook.

Now, we’re not reading his notebook with him–it’s not that kind of book–but the stories that creep up in each chapter and section provide fodder for it. So many bits of childhood many people (my generation and older) probably remember in some capacities. Granted, this town is very specific, small town and far from most big cities. But the kids play their own games, and invent their own understanding of how the universe works. When I got to the chapter of the two girls and Tom talking with the elderly Mrs. Genbley, I remembered when I was a kid and believed–as they did–that “old ladies” were always old and had never been kids themselves. It’s a “fact” of childhood, you know, at least until the kids start growing up themselves. I remember that.

And then other moments and beliefs come out for Douglas, like someone could really build a “Happiness Machine,” or that killers were never real men but wraiths like in the movies, or that the color of dandelion wine darkens or lightens depending on the memories bottled up with the liquid.

The first few chapters I had to re-read because the pacing and language were a bit strange to me. I can’t think of any other way to say it. I mean, sometimes the kids speak like kids and when Douglas goes for a monologue, it almost sounds like Bradbury’s pouring forth through him, too.

However, as the pages and the summer go on, and we get a little farther from Douglas himself, the town opens up to our eyes as well, and it’s easier to get absorbed in the events.

I think the story had a bit of magic in it, I just wish it didn’t take so long for me to get into it and get the gist for the language and who these people were, magical and practical in turns. But once I did, I kept going at it.

It’s definitely different than what I’m used to with Bradbury in a sense because at first it didn’t seem like a lot of little stories of summer rolled up together. I’d recommend anybody to at least give it a shot.

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