Oct 26, 2007

From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury

It was only when I read this review by Ex-Libris that I found out that Ray Bradbury’s exquisite story “Homecoming” had been expanded into a novel. From the Dust Returned: A Family Remembrance tells the story of the Elliott family – a family of ghouls, vampires, mummies, winged men, witches, mind readers – and of Timothy, the mortal boy who came to live with them.

Many of the novel’s chapters were previously published as short stories. Bradbury had been writing about the Elliott family for almost 50 years, until he decided to connect these short stories and form a novel. The book does indeed read as a collection of interrelated short stories – many would work perfectly on their own, but as often happens, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Together, the stories form a puzzle, a puzzle that is deliberately left incomplete so that the reader’s imagination can provide what’s missing.

This is only my second book by Bradbury, but I find that his writing is often impressionistic – in the sense that it is suggestive and evocative, creating shades and building moods and emotions rather than painting a clear picture. It takes a very talented author to do this well, but Ray Bradbury clearly is a very talented author. His writing is all the more powerful because each reader adds whatever is necessary to make the stories resonate within him or her.

The stories told in this novel concern individual members of the Elliott family – Cecy the mind traveller, Uncle Einar, the winged one, Great Grandmère, a mummy from Ancient Egypt – the house where they live, and the Homecoming and what happens thereafter, among other things. The book is full of brilliant passages, so picking just one to share is hard. I think I’ll go with the description of the family’s house:
The House was a puzzle inside an enigma inside a mystery, for it encompassed silences, each one different, and beds, each a different size, some having lids. Some ceilings were high enough to allow flights with rests where shadows might hang upside down. The dining room nested thirteen chairs, each numbered thirteen so no one would feel left out of the distinctions such number implied. The chandeliers above were shaped from the tears of souls in torment at sea five hundred years lost, and the basement cellar kept five-hundred vintage-year bins and strange names on the wine tucked therein and empty cubbies for future visitors who disliked beds or the high ceiling perches.
There. I absolutely love the way he writes. The novel was beautiful and atmospheric and funny and melancholy, and an absolutely perfect Halloween read.

Reviewed at:
The Indextrious Reader


  1. I didn't know about this one! That's so cool...I loved The Homecoming and I've really enjoyed the Bradbury that I've read this year. I'll have to add this one to the list. He's become quite popular during this challenge!

  2. very cool review! you've really captured what makes him appealing...

  3. I haven't heard of this before, but it really sounds delightful.

  4. I love the way you describe his writing and I'd never heard of this one. I'll be adding it to my never-ending list.


  5. Chris: He has, hasn't he? And it's no wonder - he's just so good. You need to read this one, you'll love it for sure!

    Jean Pierre: Thank you :)

    Dewey: It is! And it's surprising how little known it is.

    CJ: I only discovered it though RIP too. This is a book that deserved to be more well-known. I'm going to be recommending it to everyone for the next RIP challenge!

  6. Ohhhhh...I am sooooo excited!!! This sounds absolutely wonderful! And I just ordered it (as well as Dandelion Wine and Death is a Lonely Business) from paperback swap a couple of days ago. I fell so in love with The Halloween Tree, and then even more in love with Something Wicked This Way Comes, which I'm reading now, that I couldn't resist running off and ordering more of his books. But I really had no clue what this one was about. Now I'll be watching for the mailman even more closely!

  7. I will have to look for this one. Thanks for the great review!

  8. Debi: It is wonderful! Isn't Something Wicked his Way Comes great too? That was my first Bradbury and I also completely fell in love with it. I hope you get your copy of this one soon!

    Literary Feline: You're welcome :)

  9. Bradbury is often on the required reading list for High School, and truthfully, I can't figure out why. Dandelion Wine was enough to make me stop reading him for TWENTY years, until I just picked up Something Wicked This Way Comes. Now, I'm hooked. I have The Halloween Tree on my bedside table, and it looks like I'll have to add this book which you just reviewed. I'm glad I didn't forget about him altogether!

  10. I'm SO glad you liked this one as much as I did. I find that it's relatively unknown in comparison to some of his other works, so I'm always tickled when someone new discovers it.


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