Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Bell for Adano by John Hersey


Of all the books I've read this year, I think this one is the most satisfying.  Partly because I really enjoyed reading it, but mostly because this is one of the books that has been on my shelves, unread, for the longest.  I know where I bought it, though not exactly when.  However, I can tell you that this book has been packed and unpacked at least ten times.  It's been in three different houses in Florida, three in Texas, one in Nebraska, an apartment in Chicago, and in storage with the rest of our household goods while we were stationed overseas in Japan.  Does that give you an idea of how long I've owned this book?

I am delighted to report, also, that it was a really good book.  A Bell for Adano is a Pulitzer Prize winner, which doesn't necessarily guarantee I'll like it, but I think that's the reason I never chucked it into the donation bin during any of my moves.  I finally started it the other day when I was looking for a good audiobook and realized that the library owned it -- I could listen to it on my commute to work, which would speed things along.  But after a few minutes, I really didn't like the narrator, so I picked up my own print copy and gave it a try.

Happily, I was rewarded for all my tenacity.  This book is really a charming story.  Major Victor Joppolo, the American child of Italian immigrant parents, is put in charge of an Italian town called Adano after the Italian surrender during WWII.   Major Joppolo has to deal with military bureaucracy, cultural differences, and the looming threat of the Germans as he tries to get the town running smoothly again after years of wartime shortages, fascism, and corruption.  One of his goals is to replace the town's treasured bell, a 700-year-old relic that had been taken by the Fascists and melted down for bullets.  

Honestly, I don't know why I put off reading it for so long.  It's not a very long book, and it's not a difficult read.  I'm not a huge fan of war stories, though I do enjoy reading about how everyday people deal with wartime on the home front.  A Bell For Adano isn't exactly a war story, since the war is mostly over when it starts, so in essence it is about the war at home for the Italians.  Parts of it did remind me a little of Catch-22, because it does poke fun somewhat at military bureaucracy.  It's not making of fun of the military per se, though it does satirize all the ego-massaging that has to go on in a big organization, which I'm sure isn't exclusive to the military.  

I did really like the characters and the story, though I did find the ending a little abrupt -- it really left me wishing I knew what happened to all the people.  Parts of it are very funny, and parts were sad and made me tear up.  I did end up reading most of it in one day because I got so engrossed in it.  It was quite uplifting after some of the terribly depressing books I've read recently.  

I am thankful for Roofbeam Reader's TBR Pile Challenge for inspiring me to finally get around to reading this book -- it was one of a dozen books I promised myself I'd read this year, and I've now completed eight of them -- one a month, right on schedule.   It's really inspired me to keep reading the books from my own shelves, and I've already started my list for the 2013 TBR Challenge.

11 comments:

  1. What made into a film? I seem to know the story but I know I haven't read the book. I am impressed that you went on after you decided you didn't like the narrator of the audiobook. This has put me off on a number of occasions, but I've never thought to pick up the actual book itself afterwards. And what a wonderful idea the TBR Challenge is. After the recent purge of my bookshelves I realised that I own a great many books I've never read which I should read and then pass on. If I were to read one a month it would make a tremendous difference.

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    1. I don't know if they made it into a movie -- I know Hersey's famous for his novel Hiroshima, which I haven't read either.

      I just found the narrator very condescending and bland, if that makes sense -- as if he was reading to little children and using small words so we'd all understand.

      I've counted the number of unread books on my shelves, and it's more than 200. I wish I could stop checking out library books but I work at the library so it's pretty near impossible, especially since I run two book groups (I try to choose books I own whenever possible, but it's not easy). I'm trying to read at least 50% books from my own shelves every year. I suppose buying new books would make a huge difference too!

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  2. Isn't is a wonderful feeling to cross off a book that has spent so many years on the TBR piles? Is this one that you'll keep, do you think? It does sound interesting. I think I may have come across it in one of the Readers' Digest Condensed Book volumes.

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    1. I think I will keep it. I don't know if I'll have time to read it again, but I do have friends that I think would like it.

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  3. I'm glad to see you blogging after discovering your copycat! This book sounds excellent!

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    1. Yes, I need to post an update on that. All is well.

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  4. Yay! Another post! I'm getting addicted to this blog...Congrats for the TBR list, it's something that should inspire me to get started on my own...Anyway, this sounds like a great book! Me, I'm a War novel junkie (before, during, between the wars, after etc.) but some of them are more uplifting than depressing and it probably just depends on the author.

    Indeed, a prize, even a prestigious one, doesn't necessarily mean that you'll enjoy a novel. This is definitely going on my wartime stories list! :P

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    1. Thanks! This is actually a war novel that turns out to be mostly uplifting, though it does have a few sad moments -- I did tear up at one point but then everything makes me cry.

      And I agree, there are award winning novels that make me say "Whaaaat?" But I really enjoyed this one. There are so many novels about the wars in Germany and England, it was nice to have the Italian perspective.

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  5. Sadly my library only has the Hiroshima book but if I fall over this one I'll buy it, I think I'd enjoy the different perspective. It is a great feeling when you eventually get around to reading something which has been grumbling at you from a shelf for years. I have so many of them!

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  6. Wow! Well done finally reading that book after such a long time! And to have enjoyed it too! Congrats! -Sarah

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  7. Hi there, the October edition of Books You Loved is live. Here is the link Books You Loved October Edition Please do pop by and link in a post about a book you loved. Maybe this one? Cheers

    PS I am a follower of your blog. I know you have linked in before, too – which is great. Would you consider following Carole's Chatter back – or are you already?

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