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"Life should be touched, not strangled. You've got to relax, let it happen at times."
on 30 November 2006
(3.5 stars) Though this may be a sequel to Dandelion Wine in terms of philosophy and message, it is far different in tone and style from that wonderfully nostalgic look at rural life in the late 1920s. Dandelion Wine straddles that magical line between reality and imagination, conjuring up images with which every reader can identify and allowing readers to draw important conclusions about life from the gentle depictions of life as we see it in the novel. Farewell Summer, however, is an allegory, heavily symbolic from the outset--and much darker--missing the warmth, love, and light touch which make Dandelion Wine so charming.
That contrast can be felt especially in the first few pages, in which Doug and his friends (now aged twelve) decide not to grow old, to stay the age they are. Doug believes that the old are "another race...Aliens. Evil. And we're the slaves they keep for nefarious odd jobs and punishments," a much harsher conclusion than anything one finds in Dandelion Wine. The boys and the elderly residents of town (most of whom are involved on the school board) go to war with each other, and one of the elderly actually dies of a heart attack during the first skirmish (in the book's first twenty pages). And if that war is not symbolic enough, the boys also decide to kill the town clock with firecrackers.
The ravine, which bisects the town, plays its role here, as does the haunted house, and when one of the old men gives a birthday party at the lakefront for his grand-niece, and Douglas gets kissed for the first time, the effects of adolescence on the boys become obvious. In a strange interlude, the sexual awakening of the boys is contrasted with the sexual decline of the old men. Some communication between young and old does take place late in the book, but the lessons learned feel very much like lessons taught.
In his Afterword, Bradbury describes the original publication of Dandelion Wine for which he had already written a version of Farewell Summer. For fifty-five years, he says, he worked on the latter, until "I felt it was correct to send it out into the world." He does bring his philosophy full circle here, and he does bring Doug into the adult world, but the charm and the subtlety of the first book get lost in the allegory and obvious symbolism of Farewell Summer. Mary Whipple