Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury []

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Dandelion Wine is Ray Bradbury’s novel of a child’s summer in a small Illinois town. In the first few pages of the novel Douglas Spaulding, the twelve-year-old protagonist, is stuck by the alarming thought that he is alive, “I’m really alive! he thought. I never knew it before, or if I did I don’t remember!”

This is the first of many revelations Douglas will have over the course of the summer. Douglas’s summer is a time of brightness and joy to be cherished, but still, by its end he has transformed himself, having struggled with issues of identity, age, fear, and mortality.

Like so many of Ray Bradbury’s novels, Dandelion Wine is episodic, essentially a collection of stories many of which can stand alone. Douglas features in many of these stories, but several stories feature other characters, among them: Leo Auffmann, who attempts to build a happiness machine; Helen Loomis, who is 95 and never married, but shares a mutual admiration with the much younger Bill Forester; and Mr. Jonas, the maybe magical and certainly mysterious town junkman who heals Douglas when he is ill.

Dandelion Wine reads quickly but offers much worth dwelling on. The stories are memorable, the setting and characters are both characterful and yet sufficiently loosely described so as to seem universal, and the writing is engagingly snappy and colorful. Forbes Library’s Afternoon Book Discussion discussed Dandelion Wine in August and we had a very lively, enjoyable discussion. Very much recommended.