This was a very interesting book and one that really stayed in my mind and made me think about a lot of the themes. I didn’t particularly enjoy reading it but I can see it is a powerful book and was impressed by it. The story is set in the future where new ideas and knowledge are stifled and people are encouraged to conform rather than to challenge. The reader follows the life of Montag who is a fireman employed to burn books and the houses containing them (rather than to put out fires as we are used to firemen doing) as books are considered dangerous. Montag begins to question the values and restrictions of the world he lives in and attempts to hide books in his home rather than destroy them, resulting in him having to run away to avoid arrest and to save his life.

It isn’t clear what time the book is set in, but it was fascinating in that it could easily be a time not very far from today and one I could very easily imagine us entering. I found it very distressing to think of all the books being destroyed and to imagine a world without books. But it is also scary to think of how easily we could come to this – Montag’s world has banned books and free speech and the ability to question things all in order to preserve political correctness, and today we are obsessed with political correctness. Montag’s boss, Beatty, states that Little Black Sambo was banned because black people didn’t like it, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin was banned because white people didn’t like it – you can imagine we are perhaps only a few steps away from this in our eagerness to not offend anyone or to make anyone feel as if they are in a minority.

Several of the characters’ day to day routines were very interesting, particularly as the author wrote the book a few decades ago and yet much of what he was writing about can be recognised in our behaviour today. For example, women choosing to have caesareans even though they are healthy enough to give birth in a natural way (isn’t this what celebrity mums often do now?); the walls of people’s houses being huge TV screens (isn’t this like the huge plasma screens we have?); the people on the TV screens being regarded as family members (isn’t this just what people do today with soap operas when they discuss the goings on of the characters as if they were real people?); the ads playing constantly on trains (isn’t that like us now where we can’t do or watch anything without being bombarded by ads?); all the books, before being banned, being gradually condensed to shortened summaries (isn’t there something similar to this now? I’m sure I’ve heard that you can buy books that give you the basic details of the classics so you can sound knowledgeable in a discussion without ever having read the full book).

There were several aspects of the book I found disturbing to read such as the burning of people’s homes, and of people; the mechanical hound was quite alarming as it is so much more convenient and easy than a real dog and I could imagine, with dread, people adopting this idea; Montag’s wife taking an overdose of pills and the fact that this seemed such a common and everyday occurrence that it was treated by people hired to do just this common task rather than doctors.

I loved the way the novel seems to rejoice in the importance of books, though – how wonderful they are and how vital to our lives. It is good to be reminded of how lucky we are to have such a vast number of books easily available to us and to be grateful for what they bring to our lives. I loved the idea of people memorising whole chapters from books in their heads so that somewhere in a variety of people a book is saved and can be passed down to the next generation, thereby surviving.

I was also interested in the author’s note at the end detailing how he developed the idea for the book and the process he went through to get it written and eventually published, as the reader doesn’t often get insights into this.

I think this is a very powerful book, one that I’d advise people to read, and one that definitely stays in your mind for a long time afterwards.

Fahrenheit 451
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