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Farewell Summer
Ray Bradbury
Reviewed by Kathy Hare

"Grandma looked out the window at the way the sunlight lay across the yard and filled the apple trees with gold and echoed the same words: Farewell summer." - Ray Bradbury

 

          I fell in love with Ray Bradbury's writing during my teens. His stories are poetry disguised as prose.  Bradbury's most famous novels are "Fahrenheit 451," "The Martian Chronicles," and "Something Wicked This Way Comes."

          Each of his books and short stories contains a potent message and he has a great gift for linking words together in a way that leaves the reader in awe of an author who knows how to get the best out of the English language.  

          "Farewell Summer" is the sequel to "Dandelion Wine," which Bradbury wrote 55 years ago.  While the characters in the sequel have only aged two years and the setting remains the same, it is evident Bradbury has gained a lifetime of experience in between the two novels.

          The conflict in the story centers around the generation gap between youth and the elderly.  He begins his story with the fourteen year old protagonist, Douglass Spaulding, declaring he will never grow old.  To accomplish that goal, Doug vows to wage a war against the old men of Greentown, who he believes are plotting to steal the younger generation's youth.

          Doug declares to his comrades, "We'll never be so well off as we are right now! Grow up and you turn into burglars and get shot, or worse, they make you wear a coat and tie and stash you in the First National Bank behind brass bars!"    

           He enlists his younger brother Tom to draw up a battle plan.  Together with a band of friends they occupy their time terrorizing the elderly men in town.

          By today's standards their juvenile antics of stealing the old men's chess pieces and attempting to destroy the town clock in order to make time stand still are nothing more than mild harassment, but that doesn't stop Calvin C. Quartermain, the town curmudgeon, from mounting his own battle against the band of youths.

          Quartermain possesses the weapon the younger generation lacks.  He knows the key to making this group grow up is to introduce them to the opposite sex.  He does that by holding a birthday party for a 14 year old girl named Lisabell.  One kiss from her and the inevitable happens, Doug notices there is more to life than firecrackers, rocks, and games of kick the can. 

          It took Bradbury over 50 years to create this short but poignant novel filled with symbolism and philosophy.  While it was worth the wait, sadly I know "Farewell Summer" is Bradbury's swansong, his final message to the world.  Perhaps that is why he delayed it for so long, eking out every novel and short story he could before penning his final thoughts.

          This entertaining novel is packed with many lessons Bradbury learned throughout his lifetime, but it probably will never gain the legendary status of some of his other novels.   There's only one kiss in the entire story and only a glimpse of sexual stirrings in the last chapter.

          Today many readers want fast-paced action and lots of sex combined with intrigue, not thoughts linking the desires of youth with the experiences of old age.     Still, I hope I'm wrong.  This world needs more writing that makes the reader think, and "Farwell Summer" provides entertaining reading wrapped up with thought-provoking prose.

First published in The New Falcon Herald
Article Copyright © 2007 Bluestack Consulting, Inc.
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