Being from the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania originally, I have received a number of books from the region as gifts. This book stands out as one not written merely to glorify the people of the region as if they all have always perfectly loving to one another, or as if nobody there was extremely selfish, insane, or anything else unflattering. NINE BELLS AT THE BREAKER portrays honestly the good that was there as well as troubled lives. Casimir, the main character, was extremely mentally ill, but not without good intentions. In fact, the frustration of failing and failing to achieve the good he intended brought out more and more of the monster aspects of his illness. To those who object that they didn't know anybody in the coal region that extreme, I say they never paid attention to families who suffered deeply when one of their loved ones had schizophrenia or any other serious mental illness. This novel not only portrays accurately the suffering such families deal with, it gives a clear portrayal of immigrant life in Pennsylvania in the early twentieth century. The writing is compelling and the story excellent.
A Fine Novel
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 22 years ago
A fine novel, well written, and oddly uplifting in spite of the grim circumstances of immigrant coal miners in Pennsylvania in the early 1900's and the personal struggle against mental illness of Casimir Turec, the main character. The book took me where I wouldn't otherwise have gone and affected me in unanticipated ways. The writing is clear and unsentimental. When I laid down the book and looked out my window, I missed seeing Casimir and Victoria's house, the lane, the mine, and the enclosing mountain ridges. Historically accurate and pyschologically acute. A brave book.
Amazing development of a wife faced with a horrible situatio
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 23 years ago
I was amazed at the turn-around Victoria, Casimir's wife, did as she tried to cope with his mad behavior, especially the ways he tried to break her down by targeting the children. In a time and place where easy mobility was not an option, answers did not come easy. I grew up in the coal region of Pennsylvania, so can attest to the realistic depiction of that life in this book. The author remains true to this reality, as the characters are forced to work out their destinies within the hard demands of the coal-mining life in the early 1900's, where labor practices are brutal and coal barons are utterly uncaring of the lives of those whose backbreaking work, including children's, make them rich. It is impossible to describe Victoria's solution without giving away what readers would be best to discover themselves, but I can say that the author does not insult a careful, intelligent reader with a fairytail answer that just couldn't happen. The story gets the deeply moving, complex, yet accessible-to-general-readers outcome that the situation merits. I left it with many mixed feelings about the characters. An excellent read.
A fine tale of an immigrant's madness
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 23 years ago
This book was an amazing depiction of madness, written in the context of a coal mining village in the early 20th century. I truly could not decide what emotion I felt most for Casimir, an immigrant miner, who is filled with intense altruistic intentions, as he works and saves to bring his sisters to America from Gdansk, yet does some pretty low and cruel things to his family in the height of his madness. I loved him, I hated him, I pitied him. I pitied the family trying to cope with his madness without any idea of the troubles he suffered privately in his head. This is a very well written book. I hope the author writes a sequel.
well written, held my interest, thought provoking
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 24 years ago
NINE BELLS AT THE BREAKER kept my interest throughout. The book drew me into the coal mining community of the early 1900's. This view included the shame immigrants lived with and an empathetic picture of someone with a mental illness. Here are some thoughts provoked by the novel: Casimir's behavior, when he was optimistic about serving in WWI, made real the concept that how good or how bad we feel about ourseves affects the way we are with other people. Another thought: I'd like to think the the Casimirs and the Victorias of today get the kind of help they need. I've been thinking about why they might not, even today. Last thought: how honest can I be when I think someone important to me will disapprove of me? What are the effects of hiding an important part of myself? NINE BELLS AT THE BREAKER is well worth reading. Joan Dinsmore
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