Humor gives The Miracle of the Bells appeal

The Miracle of the Bells is a standard religious novel to which Russell Janney has added a dollop of humor. The humor increases the novel’s appeal but can’t disguise its poor quality.

Press agent William “Spats” Dunnigan  had met Olga when she was an innocent waif determined to be a star. He felt sorry for her and made sure she had a job to keep her in groceries. When opportunity arose, he catapulted Olga from stand-in to staring role.

Shortly after the film shoot ended, Olga died from lung damage suffered as a child. While explaining to the town priest that Olga wanted the church bells rung for her funeral, Spats gets an idea. He’ll have all the bells in Coaltown rung for four days before the funeral, turning it into a promotion for the film studio.

Spats not only achieves his publicity objectives, but also turns the town upside down. It’s a miracle! But there’s no reason to think Spats is a better man because of it.

If Russell Janney weren’t so clever with his odd characters and funny lines, the novel would fall flat. For substance, readers will have to look elsewhere. The Miracle of the Bells offers nothing but fun.

The Miracle of the Bells
By Russell Janney
Prentice Hall, 1946
#1 bestseller in 1947
My grade: C+
© 2006 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Best-selling novels of 1947

1947 was a very good year for novels.  More than half the novels on America’s top 10 list for the year are still entertaining and thought-provoking reading.  In the next few weeks, I’ll post reviews of all 10, starting with the No. 1 bestseller.  Check your public library or WorldCat to locate a copy near you.

  1. The Miracle of the Bells by Russell Janney  http://worldcat.org/oclc/307543 
  2. The Moneyman by Thomas B. Costain http://worldcat.org/oclc/9780459
  3. Gentleman’s Agreement by Laura Z. Hobson  http://worldcat.org/oclc/9808446
  4. Lydia Bailey by Kenneth Roberts  http://worldcat.org/oclc/7020406
  5. The Vixens by Frank Yerby (No WorldCat member libraries show this item in their collections.)
  6. The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck  http://worldcat.org/oclc/33060655   There are mutliple editions of this novel, each with its own OCLC number.
  7. House Divided by Ben Ames Williams  http://worldcat.org/oclc/12178006
  8. Kingsblood Royal by Sinclair Lewis  http://worldcat.org/oclc/30637705
  9. East Side, West Side by Marcia Davenport  http://worldcat.org/oclc/568038
  10. Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger  http://worldcat.org/oclc/287607