Hi, Hey, Hello!
And so we have the reason for my new approach to book reviews (and can we just move forward assuming that these reviews are probably not spoiler free). This book seemed to just fuel some kind of fire in me, which is fitting given that it’s basically about a firefighter.
That book is Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, aka this little thing:
I went into this book only knowing that everyone and their dog told me that I should read it because it’s one of those big bad classics. Which obviously meant that I avoided picking it up at all costs. And then I stumbled across this beaut of a copy while I was killing time in a Waterstones and I couldn’t say no to it (let’s ignore the fact that I put it on this Reading Challenge list before I bought it…cool, yeah thanks). I had no idea what it was about, and for some reason I didn’t even think to read the blurb so when I opened the book on it’s crisp, clean, beautiful first page I was sort of thrown into this world with no expectations.
The ultimate reason that I enjoyed this book is because it’s very existence is a contradiction. It’s rooted in irony. The very thing that I am reading is the thing that could end up getting Guy imprisoned. And I enjoyed that set up from the get go.
The opening line of this book is the main thing that set me up to realise that I was probably going to thoroughly enjoy this book, even though it eventually transpired that they were destroying my favourite thing in the world. ‘It was a pleasure to burn‘. It sets up the story so well, or at least it does to me. It sets up this post-apocalyptic world beautifully. The idea that this world had reached a point where things were just the norm and no-one challenged them. In fact in some ways they even learned to enjoy it and just move along. It’s a reflection on society almost always but takes it to the extreme and shocks you into thinking about it. I liked that within pages this sentiment was challenged by Clarisse, in a small way at first but a way that planted the seed and bloomed the rest of the novel.
The opening paragraphs are all fire and red, intense and vicious and then they are instantly contrasted by the introduction of Clarisse who is all snowy and milk white. The total contrast between the two images so close to each textually makes the part of me that can read symbolism into anything squeal in delight, because this ethereal, pale young woman gets the wheels in motion for the tough, firefighter who does the government’s work and ruins culture and fantasy and life (look I really love books, I’m sure this has come across by now). And this even became reflected in Guy, ‘his face a mask of ice’, so more symbolism there. Yay.
Clarisse was in many ways just a plot point. She dropped in, said her thing, got Guy curious about the world and then almost inexplicably disappeared and part of me found that annoying. I don’t know why, it’s probably a personal thing, but she felt like a somewhat important character that nothing was ever really done with. She just had to get Guy on his way.
I liked the way that Bradbury constructed the home life, even though that almost seemed kind of dated now. The idea that people didn’t have to leave the house and could just consume entertainment and not have to really communicate with one another. It almost worked as some kind of slightly distorted mirror on society now (Netflix binge anyone? Yeah me with OITNB this weekend, so ready. But I digress). The difference was that a huge element of entertainment was being torched. But it was through the home life, as distorted as it may seem to a reader, that the fear of books and literature was made all the more apparent. Mildred is terrified of change and the idea that Guy is being affected by literature is pretty much the worse thing that could happen to her. And when she fears the worst she is out of there. What I liked about this aspect of the novel is that it showed how the fear of government and change and all that stuff affects people. Mildred just wants to follow it blindly because she likes the life that she is living and really wants her fourth world, but Guy decides he’s had enough.
I think it’s fitting that took for him to witness a woman willing to die with her books (which as I was reading was something I could totally see me doing, seriously don’t take my books from me). To take note of what literature can mean to someone deep down. The catalyst as it were. I love a good catalyst.
I have a like/hate relationship with Beatty as a character. Part of me wanted him to shut the hell up and the other part of me found it fascinating that even though Beatty swore by what he was doing, burning literature, he could just reel off literary references. He seemed to revel in imparting that little bit of knowledge on Guy any chance he could and that was interesting to see play out. It also seemed to act, to me at least, as a comment on the importance that power has. Beatty can clearly be knowledgeable about books and have a wealth of knowledge about them, but he’s never going to get reprimanded for it like Guy will, because he has all the power.
A few things I didn’t like. Once Guy goes on the run I sort of lost interest. It, weirdly enough, felt a bit unrealistic. I liked the conflict of Guy and his job and those around him more than I liked Guy finding like minded, literature loving people. That probably says more about me than anything else I’m sure. Linked to that you could tell at parts that this book was compromised of parts that Bradbury wrote over the years. It felt a bit disjointed at times, especially towards the end, but that may have been because I was slowly becoming detached. Also Guy annoyed me at times, but I find that I get annoyed with the protagonist of books at least once all the time, so that’s not a big thing.
Ultimately I liked this book because it championed the gorgeousness that is books. By omitting them and making them dangerous it highlighted just how impactful and great literature is. And I’m always gonna like that.
Parentheses count: 5. See you tomorrow!
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