Dandelion Wine (1957)

by Ray Bradbury

If you think of Ray Bradbury as a writer of dystopian science fiction tales, you may pass up reading Dandelion Wine. And that would be a pity. Dandelion Wine is a marvelous, heartwarming, nostalgic book about Green Town (aka Waukegan, Illinois) in the summer of 1928. The chief character is 12-year-old Douglas Spaulding (presumably Bradbury himself), and the perspective is that of his older self reflecting on the lessons from that eventful summer.

Those three months bring a lot of changes for Doug, his younger brother Tom, and their relatives and friends. Three beloved elderly people die. A mass murderer terrifies young women. Doug’s close friend moves away. The trolley is replaced by the streetcar. The mechanical witch in an arcade is breaking down. Then there is Doug’s interior awakening — the heady realization that he is alive, the sobering realization that everything alive eventually dies. The vignettes in Dandelion Wine capture small-town America in the 1920s: the soda fountains, junk peddlers, porch sitting on lazy summer evenings, childhood games, Grandpa’s dandelion wine making. Awakenings come to young and old and in between. Boys discover that an old Civil War soldier is a human time machine; a newspaper reporter discovers a soulmate in a 95-year-old woman; an older woman’s interaction with children leads her to let go of the past. 

Dandelion Wine is a time capsule of an era as well as a purveyor of universal truths, saved from sentimentality by the looming presence of mortality.


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