Farewell Summer, by Ray Bradbury ISBN 9780739481349
Four out of five stars
I have been a fan of Ray Bradbury for decades, in my opinion he can invoke emotions of all kinds, especially dark, in ways that no other writer can. I must have read “The Veldt” fifty times in my sophomore year of high school. However, this is not one of his better novels.
The premise is the end of summer in a small town. Like all towns, there is a group of rowdy and energetic boys around the age of eleven and a group of old men that are barely hanging on. The old men are led by a grumpy guy named Quartermain, he has never married or had any children and has no contact with his brother and his children or grandchildren. He sees the boys as a nuisance rather than a reincarnation of his youth.
Conversely, the boys see the old men as ancient relics, of interest only as an object to annoy. Like boys everywhere, when they are not in school their lives are filled with elaborate role-playing games and associated mischief. They seem to have an unlimited supply of firecrackers and use them in inappropriate ways. There are a few girls mentioned, but at this point in their lives, girls are still fairly icky creatures.
The town clock and the noises it makes in reminding them of the time forms a coherent theme for the book. The old men see it as a reminder of time gone by while the boys want time to stop so that they can continue their summer. The prospect of going to school for months on end and not being able to swim in the creek is one they would rather not face.
Fortunately, a solution in the form of a birthday party for a girl appears. It involves a visit to a haunted house and one of the boys getting a full kiss from a girl. Peace breaks out between Quartermain and the boys as they find that being nice is of benefit to both sides.
The plot is presented in a disjointed manner and it did not evoke the emotions that I associate with Bradbury’s work. While nothing by this master is ever bad, it just doesn’t reach the level of his best work.