Sunday, 14 April 2013

Farewell Summer - Ray Bradbury

Having read Ray Bradbury's wonderful Dandelion Wine, it seemed natural to check out what was in effect its sequel, Farewell Summer, the last of the author's novels published in his lifetime.

Farewell Summer, like its predecessor, is filled with evocative imagery, and employs the seasons as metaphors, but to me felt more concentrated, and less diffuse, than Dandelion Wine. 

The story, semi-autobiographical, is set in a small Illinois town in the late 1920s, and the foremost character is thirteen year old Douglas Spaulding.  This second novel features a "war", perhaps more aptly described as a battle of wills, between Doug and his friends on the one hand, and some of the local "elders", as personified by Calvin C. Quartermain.

The "young versus old" theme is carried over from Dandelion Wine, but in this sequel other concerns loom large.  Mortality, community and the transient nature of things. Rightly or wrongly, one of the strands which I picked up was the notion that our real struggle is not against other people, but within ourselves, how we deal with the advance of time and the choices and dilemmas which confront us.

Another interpretation which I put on the boys' campaign was a "maturing" and peaking of youthful imagination and idealism, about to collide with the onset of rationality and cynicism. For the time being however Douglas and company place excessive stall on symbols, failing to realise and grasp the unstoppable march of time and nature.  Is the message here that life is too short to worry unduly about things which we cannot change, and that we should embrace things as they are, and appreciate the good and beautiful therein?  Time waits for nobody, making no distinctions or concessions, but we have to harness it and cope with it.

The novel does end on quite a hopeful and conciliatory note, with both sides seeing beyond the squabble, partly due to extraneous factors and circumstance.  A rewarding read.

A link to my blog post about Dandelion Wine:   Dandelion Wine

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