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A Bell for Adano Paperback – March 12, 1988

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Editorial Reviews


Novel by John Hersey, published in 1944 and awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1945. The novel's action takes place during World War II after the occupation of Sicily by Allied forces. Major Victor Joppolo, an American army officer of Italian descent, is part of the Allied military government ruling the town of Adano. In his attempts to reform the town and bring democracy to the people by treating them with respect and decency, Joppolo comes into conflict with his commanding officer, a hard-nosed general who eventually has Joppolo transferred because of his refusal to follow orders. Joppolo's concern for the town is epitomized by his efforts to replace a bell that the fascists had melted down to use for ammunition. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (March 12, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394756959
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394756950
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Oddsfish VINE VOICE on August 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
Back in high school, I made a vow to myself that I would eventually read all of the Pulitzer Prize winning novels. A Bell for Adano was one of the first that I read. Now, a few years later, I have read around 30 of those novels, and while many have been wonderful, few have matched the experience of reading A Bell for Adano, and I continue to return to it.
The splendid novel is set during World War II, though it isn't really a war novel. The novel is about how very different people can, and should treat one another, especially when in a difficult situation. A Bell for Adano primarily concerns Major Joppolo. He is an American officer placed in charge of the city of Adano after the invasion. Joppolo is a wonderful, though flawed man. He's always practical but remains sentimental. He sets out to make the lives of the people of Adano the best he possibly can. He does so by not treating them as the enemy but as People. The "bell" of Adano refers his attempt to restore an historic bell to the city that it had lost during the war.
I can never do justice to my favorite novels when I review them, and this is one of them. I can't say enough good about it. The characterizations are strong and the interactions between the characters are touching and thought-provoking. Joppolo's relationship to the city's people is truly remarkable. It makes one think about America's relationship with foreign countries. The story is heart-tugging and humorous. There are few novels written this century that can touch a reader as much as this one does, and this one can make you think a little, too. A Bell for Adano certainly deserved its prize, and it definitely deserves to not be forgotten.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By John Knight on March 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
John Hersey would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize and become a prominent star in the pantheon of twentieth century writers. This book was written during World War II and was a best-seller when released in 1944. And it still resonates today. In short, it is the story of an American officer given civil responsibility for overseeing the coastal Italian town of Adano following its liberation by American forces.
How Major Victor Joppolo goes about this task is interesting as are the variety of Italians-former fascists and anti-fascists alike--he meets and, eventually, wins over. More gripping, though, is the character of Jappolo himself who, in many ways, Hersey repressents as Everyman--or at least EveryAmercicanman. He is practical, yet sentimental. He wants to do good, but also wants to be loved. He has a strong sense of loyalty, yet hungers after an Italian woman despite loving his wife back home. He admires the Italians, but shapes them in our American mold. He is--in modern psychobabble--conflicted; imperfect, yet very admirable.
The title refers to the city's most prominent--it has dozens of them--bell which for seven hundred years called the people to work, to eat, to love, to church, to life. It was shipped away by the retreating Germans to be made into bullets at some northern foundry. Its lack leaves a gaping wound in the civic fabric. Joppolo, of course, gets the town a replacement bell. How he does it fills you with pride. His first hearing of its strong voice can break your heart. This is a worthwhile book both as a story and as a still provocative look at the American character.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Born to Read on April 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
My head read this book and said: "If only Iraq were this easy. The Americans invade Sicily in World War II and Major Joppolo is put in charge of the small town of Adano. Despite the grisly casualties in the taking of the town, the whole place falls instantly in love with the American major. And what about those ethnic stereotypes? The Sicilians all seem like goodhearted but slightly retarded children, an impression reinforced by their comical dialogue, both when they speak English ("Okay, a boss, you're a not a kid Giuseppe") and in literal translation, when they speak their native language (so "Viva il Signor Capitano!" becomes "Live the Mr. Captain!"). Sicilians who were there during the war say it was not this way at all: the Americans installed members of the mafia as mayors to keep the Sicilians under control."
My heart, who also read the book, replied: "You just don't understand. This is a beautiful tale about how a single individual can make a difference. Two vastly different worlds collide, but the result is pure magic because Major Joppolo throws the rule book away and reaches out to the town with his heart, inventing novel solutions to problems, trying to get a replacement for the bell that the Germans stole, and, above all, connecting with the people. The humor is marvelous: The scene in which the priest holds an interminable church service waiting for the major, who promised to attend but who has lost track of the time, will guarantee at least one chuckle. And Hersey choreographed the poignant scene when the Italian prisoners of war come home to their women as pure ballet."
In the end my heart prevailed when my head remembered that Aristotle said that the purpose of drama was not to represent reality, but to effect "a catharsis of pity and fear." This book will do more than that: it will make you smile, and it will make you feel a little better about the human race.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Shannon Byrd on September 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
As another reader has said, I also am making my way through Pulitzer winners. I'd intended to save this one until the end, because for some reason I was under the (much mistaken) impression that it was going to be boring. Boy, shows you first impressions aren't always right! This is a heartwarming and yet bittersweet story - you wish there were more people out there like the Major and less people like the General, and the types they represent. I read the novel in about three hours; it's that compelling and ultimately enriching. I'm glad I didn't wait!
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