Originally published: 1953 (This edition 1999)
Author: Ray Bradbury
Published by: Harper Voyager
Length: 240 pages
Reading dates: 24-28 September 2021
September saw me return to my book club for the first time since March. Live has been busy and I’ve had less time for reading so with my other reading commitments taking priority, book club took a back seat. I wasn’t enjoying the Zoom meetings as much as the IRL meetings but knowing we were planning a pub meeting this month encouraged me to pick up this month’s choice! We’ve been following the Adur and Worthing Reading Challenge and September’s prompt was a banned book and we chose Fahrenheit 451.
Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the source of all discord and unhappiness: the printed book.
Montag never questions the destruction or his own bland life, until he is shown a past where people didn’t live in fear and a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.
Montag begins to question everything he has ever known and starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life.
I did question if there was any point reviewing this – after all, being a well respected classic, I wasn’t sure if little old me would be able to add to what already has been said. I often approach a classic thinking I won’t get it, that I’m not clever enough for it and I assume I won’t enjoy it. But I actually really enjoyed Fahrenheit 451! Set it a future American society where books are banned and the new role of fireman is to burn any books that are found, any owners of books, often end up having their whole homes burnt down and get arrested.
Guy Montag is one such fireman – he has started having doubts about his vocation, especially after speaking his neighbour Clarisse, a free thinking 17 year old girl. He starts to hide books in his home, not really sure why he is doing it. His boss at the fire station Captain Beatty has his suspicions but gives him a chance to repent but eventually, Guy is forced to go on the run, after his wife turns him in.
The future Bradbury created was clever for it’s time and in places not too far from the truth. In Fahrenheit 451 we have moving sidewalks and immersive parlour walls (flat screened TVs) which Montag’s wife is addicted to. The novel doesn’t state how books were banned but we hear from Beatty that books fell out of favour as technology advanced and people preferred their entertainment to be simplified, hence the popularity of the parlour walls and TV. What began as a form of social change eventually became law as the government was able to use this situation to ban books.
“There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.”
So why was Fahrenheit 451 a banned book? Since it’s publication in 1953, it has been censored and banned by several schools in the United States for it’s profane language and it’s treatment of the Bible. Oh the irony…
We all really enjoyed it which is unusual for us but we still had plenty to talk about. Comparing it to the bleakness of 1984 we felt Fahrenheit 451 ended with a more hopeful feeling. So glad I read this!
Interesting fact: Fahrenheit 451 appeared in Playboy magazine in 1954, after Hefner paid $400 to serialise it!
About the author:
Ray Bradbury was an American fantasy and horror author who rejected being categorized as a science fiction author, claiming that his work was based on the fantastical and unreal. His best known novel is Fahrenheit 451, a dystopian study of future American society in which critical thought is outlawed. He is also remembered for several other popular works, including The Martian Chronicles and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Bradbury won the Pulitzer in 2007, and is one of the most celebrated authors of the 21st century. He died in 2012 aged 91.