I have to confess, I found Farewell Summer hard going. But, in the final few chapters, the book finally came alive for me – so alive, I started it again and read it through from the beginning. (This is the first time I have ever read a book through, twice, all in one sitting).
This is a book about growing up and growing old, set in a small American town during a long, hot, Indian summer. Here the young boys, led by 13 year old Doug, decide to wage war against the old men who dominate the life of the town. After the first shot is fired (from a cap gun) and, inadvertently, causes a real death, the boys set about trying to stop time; stealing the old men’s chess pieces and stopping the clock in the town hall.
The old men and the boys grow older. Eventually, the season turns and the warring generations reach an uneasy truce.
This is book about youth, old age and the realisation of mortality. At only 159 pages, and with plenty of white space due to the shortness of the chapters, this is a novella, rather than a novel. I wasn’t surprised to find this is actually an extension to Ray Bradbury’s original book, Dandelion Wine – snipped by the publishers as being too long.
The book may be short and the writing sparse, but don’t be fooled. The prose is thick; with poetry, with references, with characters, with imagery, with nostalgia, with poignancy, with universal truths.
Read it slowly. Then read it again.
The book (in my edition anyway) ends with an ‘Afterword’, where Ray Bradbury describes his writing techniques and talks about the background to the book – all fascinating stuff and worthy of another post. (Visit Ruthless Scribblings.)