Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Another challenge book down.
Ray Bradbury has enjoyed a long and prolific career as a science fiction and fantasy writer. His first collection of short stories was published in 1947. He's probably best known for his science fiction classic Fahrenheit 451, but he has also written a number of fantasies. Dandelion Wine is classified as one of those.
I have to admit that at times I'm struggling to understand what classifies some of the books in this list as fantasy. Dandelion Wine is one such book. It's basically a collection of short stories, woven together into a loose narrative by virtue of them all being set in the one small Midwest town in the Summer of 1928.
Bradbury has admitted that Dandelion Wine is his most personal work and at times you get the sense that it is almost autobiographical. The focus of most of the stories is 12 year old Douglas Spaulding, who is in fact a younger Ray Bradbury. The setting of Green Town is actually Bradbury's childhood home town of Waukegan. Bradbury has obviously changed the names of the people involved, although the events more than likely actually took place, although not necessarily during the one season, and the characters are based on real people.
Essentially it's a coming of age book, a heartfelt recollection of one glorious small-town Summer. Douglas was rather hard to pin down, sometimes he seemed too young to be 12 and other times far too mature, rarely did he come across to me as a genuine 12 year old boy. The town also appeared to be full of amateur philosophers, I'm absolutely positive real people don't talk that way.
If the authors of the list that recommended Dandelion Wine as a Must-Read Fantasy Novel wanted to include some of Bradbury's work, and he's an important enough writer to warrant inclusion, I'm not sure why they didn't include one of his better known and genuinely fantastical stories in Something Wicked This Way Comes.
If anyone enjoyed the stories in Dandelion Wine and the small-town coming of age theme I could recommend Harper Lee's classic To Kill A Mockingbird, it deals with the far more sensitive issue of race relations and takes place over a much longer period, but Scout Finch's story is at heart a coming of age odyssey. Another recommendation is Australian author Don Charlwood's All The Green Year, while dealing with protagonists a few years older than Doug Spaulding is still a well told coming of age story, set in a small coastal town in Victoria, Australia, and it's also set in the 1920's.