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Baker Towers: A Novel

Baker Towers: A Novel

Escrito por Jennifer Haigh

Narrado por Anna Fields


Baker Towers: A Novel

Escrito por Jennifer Haigh

Narrado por Anna Fields

valoraciones:
3.5/5 (9 valoraciones)
Longitud:
8 horas
Editorial:
Publicado:
Jan 4, 2005
ISBN:
9780060829155
Formato:
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Descripción

In a stunning follow-up to her bestselling debut, Mrs. Kimble, Jennifer Haigh returns with Baker Towers, a compelling story of love and loss in a western Pennsylvania mining town in the years after World War II.

Born and raised on Bakerton's Polish Hill, the five Novak children come of age during wartime, a thrilling era when the world seems on the verge of changing forever. The oldest, Georgie, serves on a minesweeper in the South Pacific and glimpses life beyond Bakerton, a promising future he is determined to secure at all costs. His sister Dorothy takes a job in Washington, D.C., and finds she is unprepared for city life. Brilliant Joyce becomes the family's keystone, bitterly aware of the opportunities she might have had elsewhere. Sandy sails through life on his looks and charm, and Lucy, the volatile baby, devours the family's attention and develops a bottomless appetite for love.

Baker Towers is a family saga and a love story, a hymn to a time and place long gone, to America's industrial past and the men and women we now call the Greatest Generation. This is a feat of imagination from an extraordinary new voice in American fiction, a writer of enormous power and skill.

Performed by Anna Fields

Editorial:
Publicado:
Jan 4, 2005
ISBN:
9780060829155
Formato:
Audiolibro

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Sobre el autor

Jennifer Haigh is the author of the short-story collection News from Heaven and four critically acclaimed novels: Faith, The Condition, Baker Towers, and Mrs. Kimble. Her books have won both the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction and the PEN/L.L. Winship Award for work by a New England writer. Her short fiction has been published widely, in The Atlantic, Granta, The Best American Short Stories, and many other places. She lives in Boston.

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3.4
9 valoraciones / 28 Reseñas
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Reseñas de lectores

  • (5/5)
    Really enjoyed this one! Takes place in the WWII era in a small mining town in Western PA. I found it interesting since my fiance is from PA and his family is Polish (like the characters). Good read!
  • (4/5)
    Excelent read. Haigh has a good grasp of life in the United States during WWII. If I can find it I am planning to read her other book Mr's Kimble.
  • (4/5)
    I like a family saga and this one is set in a Pennsylvania coal mining town. Watch the different generations live life on life's terms.
  • (1/5)
    In her second novel, Jennifer Haigh sets her story in a Pennsylvania mining town beginning with the last years of WW II. The story centers on the Novak family, a Polish father and Italian mother, and their five children. Each child is featured, as they grow up and begin struggling to leave this small company town. It is a good read and the characters are interesting. But this is a story that has been told so many times that I wondered why Haigh had chosen to retell it since there were no fresh insights into the times or the characters.
  • (3/5)
    This reminded me of a made for tv movie, it's not terrible and at times it is very good but still very ordanary. the story of a penn. mining town from ww2 to vietnam, told through one family, two boys and three girls. i liked it. almost very good
  • (5/5)
    Wonderful. So far, this is in my top 10.
  • (4/5)
    Jennifer Haigh's books don't leave a lasting impression, but they are very readable. This story was about immigrants in a dying mining town. I enjoyed the story, but it was more of a character study - there was not really an overall plot.
  • (4/5)
    focuses on the characters in a family being raised in a coal mining town. i like how the book told the story from the perspective of each character instead of just one, although i did find the end of the book a little choppy. still a good read!!
  • (4/5)
    Baker Towers, a family saga that starts with the death of the patriarch and ends with the marriage of the third generation, is a wonderful portrait of the life of talent immigrants in a coal mining town in Pennsylvania in the period after WWII. I read it in one sitting, was intrigued by the characters and drawn to the story line. Admittedly I was probably influenced by the fact that with a few changes in place names and ethnicity this could easily have pass as the east coast Can Lit I am so fond off...
  • (4/5)
    This is a family saga set in a coal mining town of Bakerton in western Pennsylvania. It does a great job of reflecting its locale while still treating each character as an individual. Each of the Italian/Polish children of widowed Rose take a different path away from (and sometime back to) their roots. Well worth reading.
  • (3/5)
    A nice book about family dynamics. I read it quickly. Ms Haigh an excellent story teller. Set in the coal mining hills of Pennsylvania spanning from WWII thru the 1960's interesting non judgemental look at the time and history of a tumultuous era. Great read for the beach.
  • (5/5)
    This is the story of Bakerton, a small mining town in Pennsylvania. The reader follows it's inhabitants as they grow up and grow away. When I closed this book I had a warm feeling and wanted more by this author Jennifer Haigh.
  • (4/5)
    In this book, Jennifer Haigh does for southwestern Pa. coal country what Richard Russo did for upstate N.Y./ New England mill towns in his book Empire Falls.I grew up in a town about 50 miles from Bakerton (aka West Carroll) in the 50's & 60's and the author does a very authentic job of capturing those small towns in that time period. There are few technical glitches. For example she sites a young man with a transistor radio in Washington, D.C. the week of the D-Day invasion in 1944. Transistors weren't developed until 1947 and weren't commercially available in radios until the mid 1950's. However, the story of the Novak family could be one of many families in that location in that era. It is in some ways a novel about women and their power to sustain themselves while the men are at war or underground laboring in the mines. It is clearly a character driven story rather than plot driven. I give it 3.5 stars....deducting half a star for those technical details.
  • (3/5)
    Engaging, evocative narrative of life in a coal-mining town in the 50's. I loved the first half of this book, but as the author rushed to bring all the characters to adulthood, I found myself wishing for more detail. I was left feeling sad and unfulfilled, like most of the people in the book and in the town,.
  • (5/5)
    Loved it...terrific character-driven piece.
  • (4/5)
    4.5 stars. This was a very good book, I just wish the author would have developed the characters and sense of place more fully. A couple characters were developed rather well, others hardly at all. It could have been a fuller richer story. As it is I enjoyed it
  • (4/5)
    A study of a family from the coal-mining Pennsylvania town of Bakerton, from the years after World War II to perhaps the '70s. Well-written, thoughtful, with memorable characters struggling to find their way out of the life that killed the family patriarch relatively early in life, the book is pervaded by a sense of foreboding and dashed hopes. Toward the end of the book, when the coal has nearly played out and the town begins to turn to other, less crushing livelihoods, the mood lifts somewhat - too late for most of the family except the newer generation. A good book but a gloomy read.
  • (5/5)
    Baker Towers is one of those books you "cozy up" with on a winter day and read it all the way through. Bakerton, PA, is a coal mining town made up of various cultures such as the Italians, English, Irish, Hungarians, and the collective known as the Slavish. The men ended up in the coal mines while most of the women found their way to the local dress factory. Life for most in Bakerton is pretty routine: marriage, children, the coal mines, or the dress factory. There were very few who broke the mold.Haigh introduces us to life in Bakerton through the eyes of the Novak family. Stanley Novak is Polish and his wife, Rose, is Italian. They live in company housing on what is known as "Polish Hill." The older siblings are George and Dorothy soon after there is the serious and very rigid Joyce and the strikingly handsome blond, Sandy. The youngest and most "Italian" looking of the bunch is, Lucy. As we read how the Novak family grows and deals with hardships we see the same happen with Bakerton the town. Haigh does a remarkable job of drawing you into the Bakerton community.Baker Towers is a beautiful novel about family and community. Haigh captivates the reader with the rise and fall of both. The long suffering of Joyce's character and her sheer determination to keep her family on solid ground while her own dreams suffer is remarkable. Sandy steals your heart in the first few pages. He is the elusive rebel that you long to appear but who surfaces when you least expect it. Haigh in this well paced novel details the lives of the Bakerton residents and families in such a way that you feel as if they are your neighbors.I truly hated for Baker Towers to end. Haigh kept the reader connected to this community with her subtle details of each family and individuals. The details never overwhelmed but those interesting tidbits kept me turning pages. Of course, in classic Haigh fashion, Bakerton is a majority Catholic community. Haigh is a solid storyteller and she writes with such compassion and gentleness. Her character development is impeccable. Jennifer Haigh is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors and it started with her 2011 novel, Faith.Make sure you read my upcoming review of News From Heaven: The Bakerton Stories a collection of new short stories by Jennifer Haigh that are centered around the fictional town of Bakerton, PA.Copy provided by the publisher. In no way does this influence my review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
  • (4/5)
    I truly enjoyed the evolution of family and community set in SW PA coal town following WW2.1944 Polish Hill : Stanley (Polish) + Rose (Italian)........and so forth.
  • (4/5)
    I really identified quite a bit with this novel. Reminded me so much of my neighborhood in Chicago, how everyone knew each other and knew everyone else's business as well. This is about a mining town and the book follows a particular family, headed by Rose, who I really liked. She was an Italian but marries a Polish man. They have five children and her husband works in the mines. It is also about the death of a town and a culture, when the mine fails things in town start closing down and soon enough everyone moves away. Except for Lucy and Rose I didn't really care for any of the other family members but it was very interesting reading and I did enjoy it.
  • (5/5)
    This book captured my eye when it was first published. I love covers that have a nostalgic vibe to them. The colors on the cover are muted and somewhat drab which gives a clue to the atmosphere of the story. I don't mean that in bad way.The story of the Novak family is not bright and cheery by any means. It is the story of a family who doesn't have an easy life. The Novaks live in a home owned by the company mine where Stanley Novak is a coal miner. The book begins with the death of Stanley. The story then focuses on the family and their survival. Life is not always pretty for them.There are five Novak children. They all struggle in the way most blue collar families struggle. Some will do whatever it takes to leave the coal mining community and not end up like their father. The story meanders through all five children's lives as they become adults. Their saga is still on my mind long after I have finished the book.The story is a quiet one. It doesn't move at break neck speeds, but at a slow pace, which reflects the time the story is set in. The story kept me captivated, even though it moves quietly and carefully.Jennifer Haigh writes beautifully and her storytelling is wonderful. Her descriptions paint vivid pictures that I won't soon forget. Her glimpse into life in Baker Towers is both haunting and intriguing. I would love to see a second book so I could spend more time with the Novak family. This was my first Jennifer Haigh novel and certainly won't be my last.
  • (3/5)
    I wavered between giving this three stars or two - in the end, I gave it the benefit of the doubt, because whatever else it was, it was engaging: I read it over a weekend. Mind you, rather a quiet weekend, but still.
  • (2/5)
    The author knows her subject, a small coal mining town of Polish and Italian people. And she knows the times, the 40s,50s and 60s. But no plot to keep you interested.
  • (3/5)
    Baker Towers is the sort of novel that is often described as a "sweeping family saga," one spanning an entire generation in the life of a family. In this case, the reader follows the Novak clan from 1944, beginning with the sudden death of patriarch Stanley Novak, into the 1970s.

    The Novak family (widow Rose and her five children: George, Dorothy, Joyce, Sandy, and Lucy) live in Bakerton, Pennsylvania

    "a company town built on coal, a town of church festivals and ethnic neighborhoods ..... Its children are raised in company houses - three rooms upstairs, three rooms downstairs, Its ball club leads the coal company league. The twelve Baker mines offer good union jobs, and the looming black piles of mine dirt don't bother anyone. Called Baker Towers, they are local landmarks, clear evidence that the mines are booming. Baker towers mean good wages and meat on the table, two weeks' paid vacation and presents under the Christmas tree." (from the book jacket)

    Like the Towers themselves, the people in Bakerton are akin to local landmarks too. Many seldom leave - but when they do, there's something about Bakerton and the small town way of life there that calls them back. It's in your bones, in your blood, it's not unlike the black lung disease that would eventually claim many of the town's men who worked in the coal mines. It's the close-knit nature of the town, family, and the way everyone knows everybody else.

    "You knew Randazzo from the Knights, Kukla and Stusick from St. Casimir's. You'd seen Quinn and Kelly playing cards at the Vets, the Yurkovich twins at the firehall dances, walking the Bakerton Circle. Kovac's wife ran a press iron at the dress factory. Angie's uncle had buried yours. You knew them from the Legion, the ball field. There was no escaping all the ways you knew them. The ways they were just like you." (pg. 307)

    I'll admit, Baker Towers started off a bit slow for me - but as the narrative delved more and more into the minds and lives of the individual characters, the choices they made and the consequences and sacrifices they faced, I found myself becoming more drawn into the story. (Jennifer Haigh's The Condition was a DNF book for me; I briefly thought Baker Towers might meet the same fate, but I was glad to be proven wrong.)

    For the most part, Haigh gives her reader memorable and realistic characters, defining them well. Of all of them, my absolute favorite was Joyce, one of the five Novak children. An academically promising student, Joyce enlists in the Air Force after high school. She's a woman born a generation too early, as one discovers while reading of her struggles to get a job after returning home to Bakerton after her voluntary discharge from the military. She knows she's being sexually discriminated against, but this was in an era where women's rights weren't what they are today. (Well, for now, anyway.) I would have liked to have seen Joyce become more involved in the women's rights movement of the day. (The time that Haigh spent on the character of Sandy could have been used for this, as he didn't add much to the novel, in my opinion.)

    Jennifer Haigh does an excellent job of taking her reader back to a different era, one that in many cases has been somewhat forgotten. It's easy to forget that there was a time not all that long ago when treatment for conditions such as diabetes and postpartum depression were simply not what they are today; we take this for granted now when that was very much not the case just a few decades ago. Baker Towers, then, looks at the question of how the era in which we live shapes us, but in what ways does the actual town where we grow up mold us too? More importantly, what impact do the people of our hometown have on who we become and is it ever possible to truly "go home again"?

    As an audiobook, I thought Baker Towers worked well. I liked Anna Fields's narration and thought that she did a good job keeping all the multiple voices distinct and consistent. (However, one of my pet peeves with audiobooks was evidenced here. I don't like when females lower their voices to portray male characters. It drives me crazy because it sounds so fake and I cannot stand it. There are quite a few male characters in Baker Towers so if you share this pet peeve of mine, you might be better served reading this one in print form.)

    Ms. Fields's narration is also a bit monotone, which takes some adjustment at first, but in a way it does kind of fit the tone of the novel. There were boom times in Bakerton, but overall, this isn't a cheerful tale. These people aren't overly happy with their lot in life. They're wishing for more - and those who do finally attain more wind up wishing for what was left behind in Bakerton all along.

    If I could, I would have given it 3.5 for the excellent characterization of Joyce. I really thought Jennifer Haigh did such an excellent job with that character. She also made the town itself a character, which I also really liked. Still, there were other characters (like Sandy) who I thought were unnecessary to the plot and others who weren't as developed as they could have been. There was also the feeling that something was missing in this book, but that flatness might be intentional. It's a quick read (or listen, in my case) and could very well be the sort of book that grows on you as time passes.
  • (4/5)
    “ Baker Towers ” accurately captured the essence of small town America in the 1940's , 50's and 60's where parents from the "old country" worked hard in an attempt to ensure that their offspring would have a chance at the American Dream. Like the Novaks, some stayed to live and work among parents, family and friends while others pursued a life away from the coal mines. Yet no matter how far away they traveled or what their accomplishments, that small town would always welcome them home.

  • (4/5)
    Audio book performed by Anna Fields.3.5*** rounded up to 4****Adapted from the book jacket: Bakerton is a company town built on coal, a town of church festivals and ethnic neighborhoods, hunters’ breakfasts and firemen’s parades. The looming black piles of mine dirt (are called) Baker Towers; they are local landmarks, clear evidence that the mines are booming. The mines were not named for Bakerton; Bakerton was named for the mines. This is an important distinction. It explains the order of things. Born and raised on Bakerton’s Polish Hill, the five Novak children come of age during wartime. My reaction:This is the kind of character-driven literary fiction that I love to read and discuss with my F2F book club. Haigh focuses on the Novak family to tell the story of America in the years following World War II. It’s a microcosm of American life, that encompasses many of the issues faced by the nation during the 1930s through 1970s. The five Novaks are as different as night and day. The oldest, Georgie, serves in the Pacific during World War II, but after the war he moves away with his new wife, rarely returning home. Next is Dorothy, a pretty but insecure young woman who takes a job in Washington D.C., but falters. Joyce is the middle child, smart and driven, always helping out and taking charge of the household when her widowed mother is unable to cope. Sandy is the family charmer, relying on his good looks and smooth talk to get by in life; like his older brother, he leaves home and rarely returns. And finally, there is Lucy, who is showered with affection and seems unable to grow out of her role as the baby of the family. Through the lens of this family the reader watches the changes in America as the town prospers in the post-war era, deals with changes in American manufacturing, and begins an inevitable decline. The residents face the changing expectations as women get a taste of “important” work during the war and chafe against restrictions when the men return. Haigh mentions the changes outside Bakerton – the death of FDR, the Eisenhower years, the assassination of President Kennedy, Neil Armstrong’s historic walk on the moon, etc – but the changes within the town have greater impact, from getting a phone or car, to a long strike for better conditions and wages at the mine. I do not usually round up when awarding half-stars, but I will in this case because it’s a discussion-worthy book.Anna Fields does a fine job performing the audio book. She has a good pace and enough skill as a voice artist to differentiate the many characters.
  • (5/5)
    I was expecting Baker Towers to be about the experience of working in a coal mine, since it takes place in a mining town. But this is the forties when gender roles were more clearly defined than they are today and Jennifer Haigh opted to emphasize the experience of the women. I was left with a clear understanding of how to clean a miner's clothes, but not how to dig coal. In some ways this choice made the book unique, but it also revealed how life in a coal town was like life in countless other small towns.The story is centered on the Novak family. The miners in Bakerton are mostly Italian and Polish immigrants. Stanley Novak is Polish and his wife, Rose, is Italian, so this family has both traditions in their heritage. Most of the story is about their children, second generation immigrants. Stanley dies early on in the book leaving Rose to raise her five children. Of those five, the two boys, George and Sandy, leave town. George goes off to fight in the war and Sandy, who misses the fighting because he is younger, goes off to find a life more exciting than the one he had in Barkerton. Haigh tells us a little about George's life and next to nothing about Sandy's. The story is mostly about Dorothy, Joyce, and Lucy, who have very different personalities, intriguing relationships, and daily problems with which most readers can identify. Here's a section discussing Dorothy's limited opportunities:She [Dorothy] sewed sleeves at the Bakerton Dress Company, a low brick building at the other end of town. Each morning Rose watched the neighborhood women tramp there like a civilian army. A few even wore trousers, their hair tied back with kerchiefs. What precisely they did inside the factory, Rose understood only vaguely. The noise was deafening, Dorothy said; the floor manager made her nervous, watching her every minute. After seven months she still hadn't made production. Rose worried, said nothing. For an unmarried woman, the factory was the only employer in town. If Dorothy were fired she'd be forced to leave, take the train to New York City and find work as a housemaid or cook. Several girls from the neighborhood had done this – quit school at fourteen to become live-in maids for wealthy Jews. The Jews owned stores and drove cars; they needed Polish-speaking maids to wash their many sets of dishes. A few Bakerton girls had even settled there, found city husbands; but for Dorothy this seemed unlikely. Her Polish was sketchy, thanks to Stanley's rules. And she was terrified of men. At church, in the street, she would not meet their eyes.I also read Faith by Jennifer Haigh. I liked that novel a bit more than this one, because it expanded into a large issue I found interesting. But this is still a five star book. It's well written and presents an honest picture of the lives of young women in small town America.Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions
  • (5/5)
    In this character driven story, author Jennifer Haigh paints a dramatic picture of life in a small coal mining town in the years following World War II. As the young men who survived the war come home, jobs are scarce for men and women alike. Working in the coal mines or the dress factory is about all that is available, and the men know where their destiny lies. But mining is hard, dangerous work, and the thought of pending tragedy is never far from people’s minds. Against this backdrop, Haigh has placed an Italian/Polish family who struggle to provide for their children. They have little time and even less money for leisure activities. As the children grow up to seek a better life for themselves, they find themselves at odds with each other. Can they put aside hurt feelings and resentment to revive familial ties? Can past mistakes be righted? Or is it too late? When tragedy does strike, will it bind together a town that is on the verge of collapse? These seemingly real characters and their story will stay with you long after you finish the book.