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and life along the winding road

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Bell for Adano by John Hersey

I picked up A Bell for Adano by John Hersey at a Friends of the Library event (a bargain at 10 cents). I hadn't heard of the author but most of you know, anything about Italy I usually grab. This was an interesting story about a small town in Italy during the time when the Americans arrived in Italy in 1944 during WWII.  Unlike the movie of the same name with it's foreboding music, A Bell for Adano is a humorous look at a village governed by an Italian-American immigrant from the U.S. Army. For the story, John Hersey used events surrounding the village of Licata in Sicily and Major Joppolo (the Allied Military Government Occupied Territory Officer) is fashioned from Major Frank Toscani whose similarities to Major Joppolo leave no doubt that he is the major character. However, Mr. Hersey added a little fiction which Major Toscani was not happy with. In the novel, Major Joppolo had an affair while in Adano. After sending Major Toscani an advance copy of A Bell for Adano, Major Toscani sued the author for libel, a case that was settled over dinner (or so the story goes).  John Hersey won the 1945 Pulitzer prize for A Bell for Adano.

The novel follows many events that happened during the war and after Nazi occupation. The people of the village were upset that the Fascists (Mussolini) had taken their 700 year old bell to be melted down for a cannon. They were left with a few small church bells and the town crier to alert emergencies and events. Major Joppolo immediately takes on the problems of the village, working toward getting everyone fed and to locate a bell that would replace the one that had been taken. He worked with the navy to allow fishing boats launched which had previously not been allowed. They marked out areas where they could fish without concern the fishermen would encounter mines. The people had lived through a decade of fascist rule followed by WWII and until Major Joppolo stepped in to organize them, they were despondent with little hope.

This one will be going on my list of favorites for this year.


Mason Canyon said...

Sounds like a fascinating read. Italy is a country I'd love to visit. Great bargain for the book too. I have to make myself stay away from Friends of the Library sales. I usually bring home more than I ever donate.

Joanne said...

I vaguely remember reading this a long time ago. I might have to revisit. Your fave list is getting long