Fahrenheit 451 book review
By Ray Bradbury
Hello Book Lovers!
Summer is always a time for me to read LOTS of books. I have read many over these warm, somewhat lazy days. My favorite time to read is on the beach with my toes in the sand. So the question was what to review for you this time. I re-read Pride and Prejudice, I read some Brad Thor books and David Baldacci. All good books to escape and pass the time. BUT – I have decided to review another classic (can I call it that?) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. This is a book on my son’s summer reading list that we read together along with listening to the audiobook. I found it apropos for our times.
This is the second time I have read – or started to read – this book. At least 20 years ago someone recommended it to me and I could not get past the first 20 pages. Even this time, the beginning of the book is quite confusing but it was summer reading so we plugged along.
The book is set in some time and place that is more science fiction than reality. The main character, Montag, is a fireman. This may seem a heroic endeavor but the firemen in this story have one job and one job only – to burn books and the houses where they are being hidden. The story is set in a time when laws have been passed where no one is to have books. The laws were passed because without books people will live in peace and not think and therefore not argue and, in turn, not have original thoughts. The firemen drive to calls with their kerosene-filled truck and douse houses, and sometimes their occupants, with kerosene and then set it ablaze. There is a robotic dog that has spider legs and a needle with procaine (a numbing drug) in his mouth that he would use to inject people who hid books. This was the firemen’s routine every night – burning houses and burning books in the name of living in peace.
Montag’s wife, Millie, stayed home and was happy to be among the thoughtless. She, like many others, replaced their living room walls with television-type screens to engage with interactive television shows. Millie would spend her entire day engaging in conversations with the characters in these shows.
Montag’s neighbor was a young girl name Clarisse. Clarisse and her family were considered “outsiders” because they laughed and talked and stayed up late enjoying each other’s company and engaging in conversation. Initially Montag thought Clarisse was strange but he eventually realized that the way her family lived was an interesting break from the mundane and bland life that he lived.
One day, Montag came home from work and showed Millie some books he had smuggled. He tried to explain to her how the books discussed ideas and stories and gave life to the world. Millie became enraged; she knew that if someone reported them their house would be burned to the ground. She put some of the books into their incinerator, but Montag kept some. Eventually, however, the firemen did come.
Since I don’t want to give away the end of the book, I will stop there. This book was a challenging yet interesting read. My poor son, who is 14, really was lost and I don’t blame him – it was not easy reading but, again, interesting. Bradbury’s imagery allows you to visualize exactly what he is describing. It was as if I could feel and touch and see everything thing each character saw, felt, and touched. The writing alone drew me into the story. The overall premise of the book, however, was unsettling and yet, even though it was written in 1951, it seemed highly relevant today.
I do encourage you to embark on Montag’s journey. Take time to absorb it and take time to reflect on it. This would even be a great book to read for a book club so that you can exchange ideas about it when you are done.
I am glad that I had a chance to pick this up again after starting and stopping so many years ago. I think I am better able to appreciate the book and its meaning than I would have been before.
Try it out – let me know what you think. Maybe we can have our own book club chat about it one day!