Sunday, March 25, 2012
Review: Dandelion Wine
Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I listened to this as a radio play, performed by Colonial Radio Theatre. The work was adapted by Ray Bradbury for the radio program, and so I'm confident in reviewing this as a decent adaptation.
The medium made it a little hard to follow, at times, as some voices were quieter than others, and sometimes characters spoke over one another. There's more exposition through dialogue (or monologues) than one would find in a written work.
But, once I adjusted to the medium, I found it to be an enjoyable and touching story. It follows the summer of 1928 through the eyes of young Douglas Spaulding. He declares it, "the best summer ever, the summer that will never end." But menace lurks in this idyllic summer, first in the person of the "lonely man," who resides in the valley in town. Then there's the Tarot Witch, an automated fortune teller who foretells death. And then you have the campfire stories told by Douglas's aunts, which are quite effectively creepy.
I haven't read much Ray Bradbury, but, from what I've read, he's most in his element when he's scaring his reader half to death with quiet, creeping menace, and when he's depicting the loss off innocence using improbable elements. In this case, it's a time machine which allows a man to travel back to his childhood, when he stopped letting people into his heart due to a series of tragic events. The story is bittersweet, but ends on a hopeful note.
There are so many noteworthy images: the bottles of wine representing each day of a neverending summer, the happiness machine populated with all of the things that make life wonderful, the Spaulding boys tallying up all of the wonders of a perfect summer, Douglas's personally overseeing the start of each summer day. But, just as the wonder of the summer of 1928 can't be captured in its numbers, neither can the wonder of this book be captured by enumerating all of the things that are good about it. What's good about it is that it captures both a slice of life and an entire life's philosophy, without ever feeling preachy or over-the-top. It was a lovely story, a lovely message, and I think most readers would appreciate the brief trip to Green Town, Illinois in 1928.
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