“This way, you get to live the summer over for a minute or two here or there along the way through the winter, and when the bottles are empty the summer’s gone for good and no regrets and no sentimental trash lying about for you to stumble over forty years from now. Clean, smokeless, efficient, that’s dandelion wine.”

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury is the last book I read in 2020/first book I finished in 2021. The novel, first published in 1957, centers on the summer of for 12 year old Douglas Spaulding, his family and his small town in Illinois. Harvesting dandelions and turning them into wine is a recurring plot point, but also a metaphor for packing the joy of a summer into a bottle. Douglas Spaulding is loosely based on Bradbury’s boyhood.

Dandelion Wine is an odd book. It is a lovely, conservative snapshot of small-town America; like all nostalgic narratives oversimplifying and longing for a place that never actually existed. The nostalgic view isn’t just rose-coloured – there is a fair amount of death, fear and pain in the second half of the The prose is nearly impeccable. But the narrative is unbalanced, and it may have worked better if it had been published as a short story collection.

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