Out of This Furnace
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Out of This Furnace

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3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  830 ratings  ·  98 reviews
Out of This Furnace is Thomas Bell’s most compelling achievement. Its story of three generations of an immigrant Slovak family -- the Dobrejcaks -- still stands as a fresh and extraordinary accomplishment.

The novel begins in the mid-1880s with the naive blundering career of Djuro Kracha. It tracks his arrival from the old country as he walked from New York to White Haven,...more
Paperback, 424 pages
Published June 30th 1976 by University of Pittsburgh Press (first published January 1st 1941)
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Out of This Furnace by Thomas BellAtlas Shrugged by Ayn RandThe Valley Of Decision by Marcia DavenportThe Cinder Buggy by Garet GarrettCarlo Valsecchi by Marco Meneguzzo
Books about the Steel Industry
1st out of 5 books — 1 voter
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Books about Strikes
27th out of 48 books — 18 voters


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Community Reviews

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Melanie
My Slovak relatives recommended this book because they thought it did an excellent job of capturing the Slovak experience in America (and, more specifically, in Pittsburgh). Even my dad and his cousins could relate to it--their fathers still worked in the mills in the 1950s and sixties (and in some cases, if they lived that long, in the seventies), everyone was in the union, grandparents and unmarried uncles and boarders filled the spare rooms in their homes, etc. It's not the most elegantly wri...more
Amy Young
Again I want to give this a 3.5! This follows three generations of Slovak steel workers in the Pittsburgh area from 1880 to the late 1930's. This is the type of book that reminds me of where I've come from (my grandfather was born to coal miners in Ohio in 1899 who later moved to the coal mines of southern Colorado) and HOW BLESSED I AM. I am. Let me say it again: I am blessed. Grandpa I love you and am thankful for the sacrifices you made to raise your son to be a wonderful man and father. Woul...more
Beth
This book is the story of 3 generations of immigrants from Slovakia, who ended up working in the steel mills of Pennsylvania. It's written in novel form, but it's basically the biography of the author's family.

The conditions in the mills in the late 1800's and early 1900's were hell on earth. These men worked 12 hour shifts 7 days a week, and once every two weeks, worked a 24 hour shift. The unions fimally came in decades later. There were no benefits, and in spite of 84 hour weeks, they made on...more
Mohamed Hagi
To be honest with you guys, I give this book a thumbs down. I had to read this book for class and I did not like the general set up of the book and I found it to be bland and some what boring. If anyone wants to read this book I strongly recommend you to reconsider. If you are looking to read an action packed, life changing novel about European immigration then "Out of this furnace" is not the book for you. One of the many things I did not like about the story was the dialouge that the book lack...more
Christopher
A historical novel that educates while telling its story. I learned more about immigrant and labor history from this book than I did from any immigrant or labor history textbook. If you're looking for the sort of novel that is high entertainment specifically, you'll probably be disappointed, as it's not that sort of book, but as a narrative that relates the struggles of three generations of a Slovak family in Western PA, it does exactly what it should be doing.
Nancy
This is the story of Slovak immigrants settling in Braddock, PA and working in the Edgar Thomson (and others) steel mill. It covers three generations. My husband was a third-generation ET worker. Knowing a bit about Braddock and the mill intensified the story for me. I could also relate to the Slovak, as my grandparents came from that general area. The doctor in the story had a name similar to my family name.
Jennifer
This is a really cool book. I have to read it for my US History class, but its amazing how good of a read it is. I'm very interested in the similarities between the characters and my own ancestors. My family came from croatia and hungary, and my great grandfather worked in the steal mills. It gives me a closer look into what their lives might have been like.
Marji
WORST BOOK EVER!!!!! The only reason I gave it two stars was because it had its facts straight, other than that; NEVER READ IT!!! I died each time I read this book, and I really don't want to put anyone else through my suffering!
Rock Angel
I saw an unrelated 2013 movie "Out of the Furnace" that showed the landscape of the modern day Rust Belt. The protagonists lived in Braddock, PA and there was a story arc that touched on the Appalachian "mountain culture" of Ramapo Mountains in NJ. I am glad to finally put a visual on the land described in Met her on the Mountain.

There were shots of the beautiful gothic architecture of the retired West Virginia State Penitentiary.
Rishona Campbell
This was a great book. It was suggested to me by some professors who knew that I grew up in Clairton, PA....a neighbor of the main locales in the book (Braddock & Homestead), and could appreciate the book's topic. I learned so much about the history of my birthplace in that ancestors didn't arrive to the area until the 1920s. This was how the mills broke the strike then...by going down South and recruiting poor Blacks to come work in the mills (this isn't directly told in the book at all...b...more
Paul Haspel
Thomas Bell's Out of This Furnace is a powerful saga that chronicles the struggles and triumphs of three generations of the Dobrejcaks, a Slovak-American family in the Pittsburgh-area steel-making city of Braddock, Pennsylvania. Bell's clean, disciplined, no-nonsense prose style complements well his story of people who cope with entrenched ethnic discrimination while seeking to build their own American dream within the dangerous world of the Braddock steel mills. Because Bell drew upon his own f...more
Irene
This was required reading for the history class I just took. It followed three generations, beginning with Kracha, a man who came to America from Slovakia in the early 1900's. I think he was a jerk and I didn't like him at all. His brother, who was already working in America, sent him money so he could join him. On the ship over he became infatuated with another man's wife and on their last night he spent his money on some liquor so he could pretend to be drunker than he was so he would have an...more
Heather
I found this book interesting and informative about the lives of this particular family of mill workers in the time period of the book. My family is from the area and I had relatives who worked in these same mills so I felt like I learned something about my own family history. Although, most of the mills mentioned in the book are gone, Homestead Works has been changed into a large planned shopping area with restaurants, businesses, apartments, and a walking trail along the water with signs which...more
Karen
A well-written and researched story about the hardships of living in the steel mill towns of Pennsylvania at the turn of the century. The story develops the lives of 3 generations of an immigrant Slovak family from the 1880's through the 1920's. It recounts the struggle of the Slovak immigrants to maintain decent lives while living in the inhuman conditions of working in the steel mills during the late 1800's. It is a story of ethnic heritage and of a cruel and violent period in the history of t...more
Lisa Wilson
This book provides a very informative look into the steel industry that shaped the city of Pittburgh. It follows the lives of three generations of Slovakian immigrants who worked in the mills. While I found it very informative, I also found the story to be very slow moving. I also found the politics to be a bit confusing, and I almost think the author may have gone with what he had heard growing up rather than with facts (the author was a descendent of steel workers). For instance, during the Gr...more
Mariel
Bell's semi-autobiographical work is mostly still read because it works better as history than as literature. Unlike The Bread Givers (which REALLY annoyed me), there is a kind of charm to Bell's novel.

Several generations of an immigrant steel working family comprise the cast list for the book. It begins with the patriarch's journey to America and from New York to Homestead. The descriptions of mill town life are the crowning jewel of the book. Although the female characters lack much depth, th...more
Matthew Young
A great ground level view of three generations of steel-plant workers and the social changes that lead to the eventual fight for labor rights, this was my first real introduction in high school to the conditions in the turn-of-the-century world that built Pittsburgh from a mining town to a major 19 & 20th century steel town. If there was one thing I remember disliking, it was that the greater condition of the steelworkers unionizing movement and the world's reaction to their... the whole pol...more
Debby Hollingshead
The story is set in Duquesne and Homestead,PA, spanning the years from 1895 to the 1930's. Since I live right across the river from Homestead,I really enjoyed the references to history of locations with which I am very familiar.
Jon Sweet
This is a very well written novel about the U.S. Steel company from the late 19th century to the Great Depression. It is very historically accurate and would be a great book for any history buff interested in American history.
Joy
Should be required reading for all high schools in the Pittsburgh, PA, area, if not in the country. Immigration, hard work, and class struggle are not new concepts. Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.
Curtis

Now that I have finished Out of this Furnace, I feel like I should work harder and love smarter. This multigenerational novel explores the plight of Slovak Immigrants from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. It’s an eye opening look at their history, dreams and desires. Bell's novel (which is based on real-life events) exposes the early origins of America's cheap labor addiction.

This was my first foray into historical fiction, and I found these characters to be simple, yet inspirational. I was m...more
Connor Seedall
Shows the evolution of labor conditions in the early 20th century over 3 generations. There was a good connection formed between the reader and the main characters
Jason David
I've assigned this book for my course BOOM AND BUST. Students love it. It remains one of my favorite labor novels.
Michael
Written in the early 40's by an immigrant who worked in the steel towns in Pennsylvania (in and around Pittsburgh), this novel follows three generations of 'Slovak immigrants as they struggle with life in a new country. Poverty, grueling working conditions, the depression, wars, politics, racism, and the struggle for worker's rights form the tapestry against which the families work to survive.

An enjoyable book, at times surprisingly poignant, which can likely pull in those interested in the tim...more
Summer Ross
I've read this book for a Class in college on the American dream. It spans three generations of fictional characters reenacting facts the author had researched about a town named Braddock and the mills the immigrants used to work in. While I realize this book is fictionalized, it has an authenticity about it that relies on the truth of the town and facts about the people living there.

At first the book was difficult to connect with, but as the chapters progressed I found myself connecting with th...more
Matt Shake
This historical fiction about three generations of Hungarian immigrants sweating, dying, and organizing in the steel mills of Pennsylvania is about as obscure as the pejorative term for Hungarians that was thrown around in this book regularly. But this a great book for any Americans who want a glimpse of how our nation was built on the "sweatshop labor" (to use a modern term that could hardly even be imagined in the Gilded Age). Believe it or not, there is an American dream somewhere in this boo...more
Patty
My mother has been after me to read this book for years. She grew up in Pittsburgh - the city where much of this book takes place. None of my family worked in the steel mills, but all of the area was influenced by the ups and downs of the steel industry.

This is an excellent novel. The story is well told - it reminds us how hard work used to be and how workers have been exploited for generations. Given that the tale is about the mills, I was pleasantly surprised by the characterization of the wom...more
Janet
Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in Pittsburgh. According to the Afterword, the characters and story were based, sometimes loosely, sometimes closely, on the author's relatives and their stories. It was mostly excellent and very entertaining. I understand that part of the local history much better for having read this book. It's also interesting to know what followed, how the unions ultimately changed the steel industry, and how Bell's actual family was not so very attached to plac...more
Patty Doane
I like historical fiction and this one was particularly interesting because it is set in Pittsburgh. Not a lot of new information but the author gave it a more personal perspective than simply spewing facts about the steel mills and the deplorable conditions the workers had to live with.
Cassie
This was a very interesting book. It's about the struggles of 3 generations of steel workers who migrated from Slovakia to Pennsylvania. The book reminded me a bit of The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, and Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt, which are both excellent. Dobie's section (the last of 4) slowed down in pace for me, as it focuses greatly on the unionizing of the steel mills, but Out of This Furnace is still worth the read.
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