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Classics Corner: Fahrenheit 451

Hello, happy June and welcome back to Classic’s Corner! The blog where we take all your favourite authors and chat nonsense that won’t be of any use to your exams!

This month (but really last month) I read Fahrenheit 451 and just… woah. It’s a book that’s been looking at me, slowly blinking it’s way into my atmosphere for a while, other people had told me to read it, the blurb sounded interesting. All good reasons to run for it. Never trust a blurb. This time, though, this time it wasn’t lying. Oh. My. God. (Please, always read that in the voice of Janice from Friends).

farenheit“Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden. Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But then he meets an eccentric young neighbour, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television. When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known. He starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life.”

This book was written in 1953 and all the social and political topics covered are still just as relevant today. It’s actually crazy to think that it could have been written last year and nothing would have to change to make it relevant. A scary thought. It is a beautifully poetic look at the way in which knowledge is gained, shared, feared. The humble paperback has been banned, the knowledge it contains lost forever to a world where a 2 minute soundbite is all that people want (and indeed, are allowed) to hear and see. The Firemen are just that, men who start fires, who burn up these precious pages of wisdom and those who stubbornly cling to them.

I will admit that at first I was a bit dubious, my initial thoughts were something along the lines of “where is this going?”, but sticking with it for a few pages reveals the book is less about the plot and more about the landscape it’s set in. It’s about the times and the way in which people interact with each other. About the effects of censorship and the ways in which rebellions can happen. There isn’t much that actually happens, but it’s still something gripping and thrilling and intriguing and unputdownable. It’s a scathing look at the way in which books promote learning, and how those without knowledge are scared of those who possess it, so try to squash learning and destroy what they don’t understand. Books promote new and different ideas, leading to wars and discord amoung the masses. The only way to keep the peace is to ban the offending objects and ensure no one ever sees them again. Obviously, the Second World War wasn’t such a distant memory at the time of writing, Hitler famously burning books in their thousands, but it’s still a scarily topical thought even today, with people of opposing views and intellects threatening the peace.

I really can’t do justice to this book, literally my notes about it just say:

Well, …F***.”

It’s that good. It leaves you speechless and makes you think and gives you nightmares about a world that is completely alien but at the same time is completely familiar. Literally everyone should read it, 5 Stars.

5/5 *****

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