A Bell for Adano
by John Hersey
1945 Pulitzer Prize
3 stars - pleasant
ALR Green - a mule is killed in the beginning of the story and it's a sad scene, but no other danger passages.
The novel is set during the Allied occupation of the Italian coastal town of Adano in 1943. The main character, Major Victor Joppolo, is the temporary administrator of the town during the occupation, and is often referred to by the people of Adano as Mister Major. Joppolo is an idealistic Italian-American who wants to bring justice and compassion to Adano, which has been hardened by the authoritarian Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini.
When Major Joppolo arrives at Adano, he immediately asks the people of the town what they need the most. The first spokesman of the town tells Joppolo that they are in great need of food for some people have not eaten in days. The second spokesman of the town argues that the town's immediate necessity is a new bell. Joppolo is touched by the story of a 700 year old bell that was taken away from the town by the Fascists. Mussolini had ordered that the bell be removed from the town and be melted to make weapons for the war. The people were greatly attached to the bell. To them, the bell was a source of pride and unity. Joppolo immediately sees the importance of the bell and makes persistent attempts to locate the bell.
Well, it's a pleasant little story and a quick read, but I wasn't overly excited by it.
What the reader does get is an honest depiction of the good and bad of soldiers. Some override orders or make intentional errors to do what is right, some are fools who unintentionally do harm, some pigs with no respect for the people they are protecting, while others still are hard headed and malicious.
Who can say which soldier is the best (refer to A Few Good Men)?
I will say that stylistically, this was a nice change of pace from the typical Pulitzer. For starters, the setting wasn't the Midwest (oh, have mercy). In addition, the story was kept simple and direct.
I would, however, put this on a high school reading list. Why? Because there are a lot of good examples of how kindness to others is more than repaid.
But overall... meh.