What I’m Reading: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

In a society where books are forbidden, book-burning fireman Guy Montag must make a decision: whether or not resuscitating books’ secrets is worth losing the life he now lives.

Well, the votes are in! Two weeks ago, I asked you which book of the three I’d recently read you’d like me to review on the blog. The winner was Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, which I must admit I’m happy about, since I liked it so much.

Fahrenheit 451 is a classic for good reasons. Let’s examine them!

The Story: Guy Montag is a fireman, but in a future when all houses are fireproofed, that means he burns down houses filled with contraband (books). Then, he meets Clarisse, a young neighbor who thinks far more than the average person, and starts to venture down the same path. I shan’t say any more for fear of giving spoilers. . . .

This story was excellently written. Many events are unpredictable, yet foreshadowed enough that they are not unbelievable. The subplots–Montag’s marriage, his friendships with Clarisse and Faber, and his work life–all wove together really well. And the way it was written made it really memorable. More on that below.

The Characters: There are just enough characters in this book, not too many: Montag, our main fireman; Clarisse, his young friend; Faber, a professor before universities ceased to exist; Beatty, the fire chief; Millie, Montag’s wife; Granger, whom he meets near the end. They were all distinct and well-developed, and I got to know more about them as I read along and Bradbury revealed the backstory (again, just enough, not too much). They were all fascinating. I cared about all of them in different ways. Some made me sad; some made me happy. For me, that’s the mark of a good writer, that the characters are compelling.

I liked all the characters, but Montag was my favorite. I really enjoyed watching him grow and develop over the course of the book, watching him gradually discover the truth and cope with his misdeeds (some of which are pretty serious, reminding me of this post on Helping Writers Become Authors). He was just so compelling. I loved cheering him on. 🙂

The Writing: Ray Bradbury was a good writer. Sure, he used telling words here and there, and there were a few narrative passages explaining things, but overall, I was really inside Montag’s head. In several places, the book was slightly disorienting, the way it was written, but that served to emphasize Montag’s confusion. It was very immersive.

Another thing I noticed was the worldbuilding. Bradbury doesn’t do a lot of explaining up front about the storyworld; he just drops the reader right into it. He explains things as they come up, like the Mechanical Hound; or he has the characters explain them, like Beatty’s explanation of how firemen came to burn houses instead of fighting fires. And the world was fascinating. I think part of the reason Fahrenheit 451 is so classic is that the society is so relevant, so realistic. It could really happen, and that’s stuck with people since the book was first published in 1953. It will certainly stick with me; it was one of my favorite parts of the book.

Overall: Fahrenheit 451 was an excellent book, a timeless classic. I definitely recommend it!

What do you think? Have you ever read Fahrenheit 451? Anything else by Bradbury? If so, what did you like about it? If not, do you think you’d like to read it? Share in the comments!