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I'll preface this review by stating outright that this is possibly my favourite book of all time, even to the point where I can find a place in my heart for the critically despised 2001 movie adaptation, starring Nicholas Cage. I first read this book about 10 years ago whilst in school as it was recommended to me by a Teacher and while I found it hard to understand at first, there are a lot of historical references at the beginning (not to mention a lot of shifts in narrative for the first five or six chapters) but once I persevered with it, I found a charming, heartfelt story underneath the historical commentary.
The book, written by Louis De Bernieres, is about a young Greek girl named Pelagia, who is far more educated than the other girls in her village due to being the Doctor's daughter. Despite her intelligence, she remains naïve in the ways of love and falls for the local fisherman, Mandras. This love is tested when Mandras leaves for war and she realises her feelings for him were more lust than love and she begins to fall for one of the invading soldiers, Captain Antonio Corelli, who has been stationed at her house during the occupation of Cephallonia. What starts out as an innocent attraction becomes more serious as the dark shadow of the Second World War approaches.
This story really kicks into gear once the Italians rebel against the Germans and the former invaders become allies with the Greek. The story shifts from the initial pleasant, yet foreboding tone into a more serious and melancholic one. It really highlights the personal loss and sacrifice that comes with war.
Some people dislike the ending and initially I felt the same, but since re-reading the book at the beginning of this year, I have a greater appreciation for it, perhaps because I knew it was coming and it wasn't quite as frustrating after ten years ruminating over it. Another aspect of my appreciation for the ending came from the BBC Radio play adaptation, which unlike the movie, kept the book's ending and the speed at which it is delivered in comparison to the rest of the book made it seem less drawn out than it felt upon my initial reading.
One of my favourite features of this book is the multitude of characters that De Bernieres populates the village with, both prominent and minor, and their relevant story paths which occasionally intersect with the main narrative. He repeats this feat with his later book, A Bird Without Wings, which I read about six years ago and is just as good a read, but I wasn't as familiar with the historical setting as I was with World War II.
This Review was originally posted on my blog
This book was nothing like I expected it would be, I have to say. My preconception was that it was a straightforward love story which isn't the case at all. Love is certainly a theme but there is a much bigger theme of war throughout the book and in many ways Captain Correlli and Pelagia are but minor characters. This isn't a bad thing however, it is much more than a love story and I was glad it was, although I felt the love story itself was beautiful. Overall this book was actually much better than I had anticiapted it to be!
There is a mix of true political history and then the ficticious story of characters lving through this period of history.Throughout the book there is commenty on the nature of war and of facism and communism which are portrayed as bad as each other. We are taken through the decision process in some of the leaders heads, these decisions have huge effects on the lives and deaths of the ordinary people in the novel which they failed to fully consider.
Captain Corelli is an Italian soldier posted to occupy the greek Island of Cephallonia, where a beautiful young girl Pelagia- which I have no idea how to pronounce :P- lives with her father Dr Iannis. She had been engaged to Mandras, a handsome young fisherman in her village but he goes away to fight in the war, not replying to her love letters and she falls out of love very quickly once he has left.
She and Corelli slowly fall in love, a much stronger beautiful love, but they cannot openly be together as they are on different sides of the war. Does their love survive the war and do they live happily ever after- you'll have to read the book to find out :P
There is another smaller story within this book- the story that captured my heart, which is about a character named Carlo. He experiences much inner turmoil and never felt he fitted in anywhere because of his secret- that he is gay. He joins the army and falls in love with a young soldier named Francis, only to tragically have him die in his arms. He is then posted to Cephallonia with Correlli, falling in love with him and eventually choosing to make the ultimate sacrifice.
If I were to be really picky there were a few things I could mention that I personally didn't like about ths book. As a rule I really enjoy books where each chapter is from the viewpoint of a different character or follows a different character, I really love it when several of the charcters have real depth, not just a few. But somehow in this case I didn't like how this it done. I felt it followed too many characters, some very briefly with only a chapter or two based on them where I would have preffered many more about them or none at all. I would have liked more chapters following Carlo but really that's just becasue he was my favourite character!
I also didn't like how obviously Pelagia and Mandris's love was purely lust based. I realise that it was meant to contrast with the much more genuine ever lasting love between Pelagia and her father and Pelagia and Corelli but I thought it was far too obvious from the start that there's was a not a love that would make it and was clearly shallow, I would have liked it to perhaps appear more real.
The only part of this book I didn't enjoy was the last few chapters. After the war had ended, Pelagias life over the next several decades is played out very quicklywith characters rapidly introduced such as her grandson or son in law, who I really don't feel are given the chance to develop in any way and didn't feel to me like fully fleshed out characters if that makes sense? I just felt like I was struggling to keep up with the pace which was fairly slow throughout the book and suddenly sped up to a crazy speed where years and years were going by with each turn of the page!
Parts that stood out?
Chapter One was actually one of my favourite's, it successfully drew me in and the story of the pea stuck in the old man's ear had me laughing hysterically- this could just be my odd sense of humour but I defy you not to chuckle at it :P
The death of Francis and the reactio of Carlo was the part of the book that tore at my heart strings the most , it was so emotional and sad, it had me crying my eyes out, i felt for Carlo so much and wanted to travel through the pages to comfort him.
The massacre of the Italian Soldiers wasn't enjoyable to read as such, but it was well written and one of the most emotional, tragic parts of the book, made worse because it was based on truth. It's certainly a scene that sticks in my mind after finishing the novel.
And of course the words of Dr Ianis to his daughter, about the nature of love, that are read at many weddings today were nothing but beautiful :)
In a Nutshell
I really enjoyed this book and how it portrayed how political history has such a profound effect on the lives of individuals.The best thing about Captain Correlli's Mandolin in my opinion is how it could swing from being laugh out funny to desperately tragic so quickly. There was so much humour in this book, often a dry sattical humour which often seamlessly led into the sad and bleak scenes. At the end of the day this book made me chuckle and laugh and made me cry- at the death of Frances and the death of Carlo, and this is the most I can ask from a book, it drew me into it's world enough to make me really believe in the characters and cry at their losses. If anyone hasn't read this book, then my advice is to drop what you're doing and head straight to your nearest library, this is a must-read!
This review is edited from a review posted on my personal blog
I must admit the film of this book put me off reading it for quite a while, but when I finally did pick this up, I devoured it in a few sittings. It is quite simply one of the most beautifully written books out there.
It starts quite gently and humorously introducing us to a small Greek island called Cephallonia, where we meet the strange but lovable inhabitants. The main characters are the island's self appointed but not certified doctor, Dr. Iannis and his daughter, Pelagia. As Iannis is widowed, Pelagia is allowed quite free reign and so is strong willed and educated, wanting to follow in her father's footsteps of medicine. When she falls for a local boy, her father is a little worried that he is not on her level and that she will tire of him. However, the second world war intervenes and he leaves to fight the invading Italians.
Pelagia writes to him but is dissapointed in his lack of response and his condition after returning from the front. During this time we are also introduced to other supporting characters through first person monologues, letters and observations of them, a different tool seemingly used in each chapter. The chapter where Mussolini rants on is absolutely hilarious in a fascinatingly frightening way and the end of that chapter, when he beings shooting at a cat that's wandered in had me in stitches.
As the novel progresses it becomes ever darker. The Italian Captain Corelli comes to lodge with Iannis and Pelagia and against their will charms them both. As the war continues and the Germans take over, it at times becomes almost too heartbreaking to read.
I felt that the novel peaked during the German occupation of the island. This was really powerful and it seemed that after this event, the author seemed to lose a bit of enthusiasm and the latter part which depicts the rest of Pelagia's life felt rushed and half hearted. The conclusion was a bit bland in my opinion.
However, this does not detract from the beautiful and moving first half of the novel and it is certainly a book you should include on your reading list, as a masterclass on how to write!
I have just finished reading one of the best stories I have ever read. What was it? Captain Corelli's Mandolin. I watched the film years ago, with the semi handsome Nick Cage, and the gorgeous Penelope Cruz, and thought the film was a nice little love story. John Hurt as the frosty father, seemed a good choice too. However, how wrong was I? How wrong was the film's director?
The book has so much more depth and storyline than that film. Set on the Greek island of Cephallonia, during the second World War, we are invited into the family home of the widower, Dr Iannis and his daughter Pelagia. The doctor is an unqualified man, but one who has travelled the world and learnt how to heal people by watching and reading. Pelagia, watching her father, feels destined to be a doctor also, despite the traditional role of women to grow up and have children and run a home. She was the son her father never had.
We read through the minds of other people of the time, for instance, Mussolini 'The Duce; the 'Prime Minister of Greece, Metaxa, and through other soldiers who had seen action in Bulgaria, losing their comrades along the way.
Then the war comes to the village. Pelagia's fiancé joins the horrors of the war and the disillusionment and neglect of Hitler's allies in eastern Europe. The book is very graphic in its description of the slaughter of soldiers on both sides of the war. It shows both sides of the war and the futility of it all, and the way it wrecks human minds that despite the jingoism, just aren't resilient enough to cope with the sights, sounds and smells of war.
The fiancé, Mandras, an idealistic simple country boy, lacking in intelligence but with a love of nature and the sea that he fishes whilst communicating with dolphins, makes the biggest mistake of his life by joining the army. Pelagia makes the second biggest mistake of her own life by accepting his proposal before he goes to war.
One man's way of dealing with all that is going on around him is to lose himself in his music. The 'woman' in Antonio Corelli's life (prior to Pelagia) is Antonia, his mandolin which is less of a surrogate woman, and more of the female side of his personality. He adores her, and the music that she makes. He and his soldiers use music to remind themselves that they still have a soul, and that there is still beauty in a world that has forgotten the meaning of the word.
The mandolin and her owner, enter the novel just before the 200th page, and the mandolin is a feature until the end of the book , linking the successive generations of islanders up to the early 1990's.
The book is a wonderfully written story that weaves through the different characters storylines, and dovetails in with historical facts as written by Dr Iannis in his history of Greece.
The first few chapters were quite difficult to read, and stick to. I had considered reading this book when it was published in the mid 1990's, but at the time I was a very busy mum and could not devote the time to reading such a heavy going novel. I am really pleased that I waited until now to read it, as I have much more understanding of the world, and of relationships, and of politics, etc. etc. and I was able to get through the less catchy chapters, and get a feel for the characters.
If you watched the film, and I have to say it was some time ago since I watched it, you could be forgiven for thinking that the whole story is set on the island, and that the love story between Pelagia, and the Italian captain Correlli (a dangerous situation for Pelagia as a collaborator, that could have been punishable by death if found out) was the only focus of the story. Oh how wrong!! I am so cross with the director of the film, as he wasted such a good opportunity for making a wonderful film of this book and doing it credit, instead of the romantic pulp that it became.
The book was written by Louis de Bernieres in 1995. He had researched his subject very well, and his sources are acknowledged at the end of the book.
There is very little about the author in my copy of the book - Random House publishing.
Wikipedia tells me that "Louis H P de Bernières-Smart was born near Woolwich and grew up in Surrey, the first part of his surname being inherited from a French Huguenot forefather. He was educated at Bradfield College and joined the army when he was 18, but left after four months of service at Sandhurst. He attended the Victoria University of Manchester and the Institute of Education, University of London. Before he began to write full-time he held a wide variety of jobs, including being a mechanic, a motorcycle messenger and an English teacher in Colombia. He now lives near Bungay in Suffolk with his partner, Cathy and two children, Robin and Sophie"
I have not done this novel justice, as there is just so much more to it. The best justice to this book would be to find a copy and read it!
I was actually 15 when I first read Louis de bernieres classic love story, Captain Corellis mandolin, but I was a big reader already at that time and a hopeless romantic.
The book was later made into a film, which I will not be reviewing here. Mostly because it was awful and changed most of the story line.
The story opens on the little island of Kefalonia during the 2nd world war and the first chapter is viewed through the eyes of Dr Iannis, father of our heroine Pelagia. They both live together happily on the island until the occupation of Kefalonia by the German and Italian troops. Despite the fact that the Italians are more interested in making friends and settling onto the island than waging war, many of the locals, including Pelagia resist their charm and attempts at friendship.
Pelagia has a childhood love Mandras who she becomes engaged to. However he runs off to fight in the war and when he comes back he is a changed man. Pelagia soon realises she no longer loves him.
Meanwhile one of the Italian soldiers, Captain Antonio Corelli, has to be put up by the Dr and Pelagia in their house. Antonio surprises all of them by his cultured nature and his love of music. He plays the mandolin beautifully and even starts a singing group. Although Pelagia resists it for some time they soon begin to fall in love.
However the war is raging all around them and when Italy turns sides in the conflict, the future and the very lives of the Italian soldiers on the Island is under threat from the Germans. Pelagia and Antonio are separated for many years and don't know if they will ever see each other again. I won't tell you whether they do or not, that is something you really have to read for yourself, but the book really is gripping and I couldn't wait to find out if they would see each other one last time.
Each chapter is told from a different persons point of view, switching between Dr Iannis, Pelaggia, Carlos a soldier fighting alongside Antonio and secretly in love with him, Antonio and other political figures which gives the book its historical backdrop.
The book is primarily about love in the face of war but is not your typical love story. It is not flowery or soppy, I think perhaps because it is written from a mans point of view, but that does not detract from the romance that is evident.
It can be harsh and brutal in places and many have complained about the depressing ending. I however do not feel it is depressing, it is realistic and I think an ending of hope, that no matter how bad things have got, love never dies.
Louis de Bernieres writes beautifully about the love between Antonio and Pelagia but also writes beautifully about the conflict. We hear from all sides, Italian, German and Greek. We also hear from the fascist and the communist sides on the war, and it is clear that de Bernieres has no sympathy for either.
I would recommend anyone read this book, those who love romance stories but also those that just love a good drama and war story. It has something for everyone!
Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres' is a superb novel. Being over 500 pages it is also a long novel. The story is a romantic one in which 'Captain Antonio Corelli' falls in love with Pelagia on the Greek island of Cephallonia. It is brilliantly written and frequently contains some exceptional quotes. Despite it being a long novel there are many chapters which makes it easy to read.
The novel manages to portray the effects that war has on relationships and true horrors that are experienced as a result. I found it to be a particulalrly moving novel that is at times emotionally saddening, particulalry the ending of the novel. The novel frequently metaphorically depicts the characters as Greek god's giving it a wider sense of appeal. It is a very detailed book and a fascinating novel in every regard.
I found that it took the first 20 chapters or so to fully get into the book and after that it was easy to read. The film does not serve the novel justice and so I would recommend reading the novel first and then watching the film to draw a comparison. Louis de Berneires' has been commended frequently about his ability to write as though he is from Greece despite only being over there for one year to plan his novel. It is an inspirational novel and portrays how the music of the mandolin can act as an escape.
Overall I would thoughrally recommend and would class this novel as one of the great books of the 20th century and a hidden jem. Thank you very much for reading and I hope you like the novel!
When I was told I would have to read this novel for my A Level English Literature exam, I was less than excited. I was familiar with the title of 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin', but had no real idea what the book was about and assumed I wouldn't be interested in it in the slightest.
However, as soon as I decided to give the book a try and actually read it (instead of just copying down notes in class and hoping that would be sufficient), I was pleasantly surprised. Captain Corelli's Mandolin is a beautiful yet tragic story of war, romance and loss.
There are some truly delightful moments in the book which are hugely funny and entertaining - and yet there are also a number of heartbreaking events which make for a very emotional experience.
This story is full of the everlasting beauties of love and compassion, interlaced with the tragedies of war and death.
I instantly fell in love with the wit and humour of Corelli and his blossoming romance with Pelagia. I enjoyed the way in which the book often switches between different peoples' accounts of the war.
'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' is an extremely touching novel which looks at the destructive nature of war through ordinary peoples' eyes.
This book has quickly become one of my favourites of all time and I would recommend it to anyone.
Having read a number of novels purely due to my fascination with the actor Nicolas Cage, Wild at Heart by Barry Gifford and Leaving Las Vegas by John O Brien to name but two, I eagerly purchased Captain Corellis Mandolin to chiefly see what could appeal to Mr. Cage himself.
This book is without a shadow of a doubt, very appealing. Set amidst the beautiful backdrop of the island of Cephellonia, this novel is more than just a love story between the beautiful daughter of the local doctor, Pellega and the dashing Captain Antonio Corelli.
Anyone expecting an easy sentimental read will be sorely disappointed.
This is not to say that the novel is devoid of sentiment, de Berniers introduces us to a collection of misfits and eccentrics, as fondly as anyone would introduce their favourite eccentric uncle.
Although Correlli lends his name to the book he does not make an appearance until we have ventured some way into our journey. The way in which de Berniers paints the island is both enchanting yet somehow frustrating at the same time. Although the azure blue waters are enviable, I could not help but feel annoyance at his somewhat dawdling admiration of the isle at times, but this unrest was eased by colourful characters such as the drunken Father Arsenios and the henpecked Stamitis who provide some light relief in a plot that is somewhat dominated by politics and the moral consequences of war.
There are some aspects to this tale that are gruesome, particularly in the trenches. It is quite shocking to conceive of such suffering, but de Berniers deals with this admirably. He does not linger on the atrocities of war, but instead shifts our focus to the human face of battle through the likeable figures of Carlo and Francesco.
The politics behind this novel are hard to come to grips with, but worth a degree of patience, as is the love story between the central characters.
It is easy to see why Cage would want this romantic lead. Antonio is sensitive, loyal and unconventional. Pellegia has all these qualities too, and this is perhaps why they are drawn together, and although de Berniers unfolds their passion like a blooming rose,
I cannot help but be troubled by the characters as a whole, especially in light of the ending. Would two forthright, passionate and unconventional people have behaved so - or was it their great love that made them that way? I cant answer that with any degree of certainty. The only thing I can say is that this is a bizarrely powerful book that washes over you without you even realizing it.
My only major criticism is the degree of anti German feelings the book prompted from me and as some of my best friends happen to live there I found that strangely disturbing. On the whole de Berniers presents a pleasant way to spend a few hours. Eat olives, drink chilled drinks and suspend your beliefs.
'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' is a beautifully written novel, at times funny, at times sad but always engaging. It is set on the Greek island of Cephalonia. It covers a period spanning from just before the Second World War and continues through the Italian and later German occupation of the island to the present.
On the small Greek island of Cephalonia the local village doctor Iannis and his daughter Pelagia have simple but satisfying lives. Pelagia his engaged to marry Mandras a local fisherman unfortunately this idyllic situation is destroyed by the onset of war. Mandras joins the army and later the Greek partisans, as time goes by Pelagia fears he is dead. When the Italian forces capture the island, a young captain, Antonio Corelli, is billeted in the doctor's house. Although at first antagonistic towards him, the doctor and Pelagia warm to him and finally accept him as a friend. Gradually Pelagia and Antonio's feelings for each other deepen into love but yet again outside events catch up with them threaten to prevent their dreams from coming true.
On the face of it this is the story of Pelagia but the nature of love in general is main theme of the book the narrative is much richer and wider in its scope than at first you would imagine. De Bernieres introduces us to a myriad of other characters each with their own story to tell- Carlo a young homosexual Italian corporal trying to come to terms with his love for a fellow soldier. The local priest, father Arsenios, who has lost is faith and become a drunkard but ultimately redeems himself. Lt Weber a young idealistic Nazi who befriends Corelli and Pelagia but whose friendship and loyalty is later tested by the unfolding events of the occupation.
These characters are intertwined into a complex web of emotions and we examine different aspects of what is considered as 'love'. There is the love shown between the widowed Dr Iannis and his daughter. This is not a conventional father daughter relationship. Since the mother is dead Pelagia has taken on the role of homemaker but not in the traditional sense, she is not a subservient woman as most of the Greek women are on the island. Pelagia is strong willed and exerts a strong influence over her father, to his credit Iannis recognises this a strength of character in his daughter and encourages her to be independent and free thinking even as far as giving her some medical training an encouragement to pursue her wish to be a doctor one day. There is the superficial love that Pelagia feels for Mandras borne more out of his physical beauty than his soul. There is the unrequited love that Carlo feels for a fellow soldier and of course the 'perfect' but troubled love that Antonio has for Pelagia.
These relationships are sensitively examined and the motivations of the different characters are made very real to such and extent that it is impossible not to be drawn into their lives and the tragic events as those unfold.
The writing style is finely balanced between achieving tremendous emotional impact while at the same time being sensitive to the requirement of a compelling storyline. De Bernieres manipulates the story so has to give full impact to the shocking events but you never feel manipulated as a reader.
We mustn't forget that despite the love stories that form the central theme of the book the background is one of violent physical and ideological conflict. The descriptive passages dealing with the tragedy of war especially those set in the Greek mountains and the trenches are truly horrific and compare well with anything Hemingway penned.
De Bernieres also proves his adaptability as an author by being able to bring out the attractiveness of the sun soaked Cephalonia as well as the mesmeric beauty of the mandolin music played by the captain, which seduces Pelagia the first time she hears it and of course gives us the title of the novel.
There is always and emphasis on contrast throughout the story, the ugliness of war against the backdrop of the idyllic setting, the brutality of the soldier's life against the purity of the music that Antonio plays. By creating characters that are real De Bernieres manages to humanise the war and even the brutality of Germans is to an extent understood if not ever justified.
I don't want to give you the idea that this is a dark depressing read, undeniably there is a fair amount of tragedy and the story of Carlo in particular will not fail to move you but these dark overtones are balanced with humour especially in the earlier parts of the novel. We have the comic interactions of some of the old men in the Kapheneion a communal meeting place in the village. In these comic exchanges between some lively colourful characters the author also examines the divisions that existed in even such a small rural community the loyalty of the villagers being divided between the crown and the socialist ideology all played out against the slow steady rhythm of the village life.
The charismatic Antonio and 'Operatic' society he forms with his fellow soldiers on the island is also a light relief, the Italian soldiers show a carefree exuberance that betrays their naivety of the politics of the war and the inherent dangers that they face being allied to the Nazi regime.
So far I have made little criticism of this book but as in all novels there are flaws. The main criticism that I have come across from other people is that it's hard book to get into and I can see why this could be the case for some readers. The first 80 or so pages are used to introduce the background to the story. It has to be remembered that although the characters are fictional the events that are broadly related in the story actually happened. De Bernieres uses the first part of the novel to explain in a rather bizarre fashion through the thoughts and words of 'Il Duce' Mussolini the events that led to the Italian army invading Greece in a bid to recapture the imperial glory of the ancient Romans. Of course this policy was to say the least misguided and Mussolini is duly portrayed as an egomaniacal, overbearing, self obsessed idiot, which might be very close to the truth.
These passages are sometimes hard to follow and don't make a very good introduction or give the reader any clue as to what follows. If you are intrigued about the background to the story then this is interesting and might add to the overall impact of the novel but for many it represent too much detail. Having said this I would urge any reader to persevere as overall the narrative is spellbinding and it is does become a compelling read.
Another area of criticism is the author's distortion for some of the real events and the part played by the Greek communist and the partisans in the struggle on the island. It would be fair to say that the Greek 'freedom' fighters and the communist parties do not get a sympathetic handling from the author and I'm not qualified to say whether this was an accurate reflection of the actual situation or not but let's not forget that while the story is based on real events this is still a work of fiction and some poetic licence must be given to a storyteller.
For any of you who have come across the film version and thus might be deterred from reading the book either because you disliked the film or feel that knowing the story there is no point in reading it again think again. Leaving aside the fact that I thought Nicholas Cage was badly miscast as Captain Corelli the film version is very different from the book. Many of the central character only appear only in the periphery, much of the violence and horror of the war, which I feel is such an important part of the story, has been removed and the ending has been changed! This last part makes me shudder since the ending in the book without giving too much away has such a strong emotional impact and is so perfect a conclusion within the context of the tragic circumstances that have unfolded that to change is a outrage! That's Hollywood for you! So please whether you liked the film or not try the book it is so much better. I would recommend it to anyone.
Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres (Paperback-434 pages) is available from Amazon.co.uk for £5.99 (+p&p)
© Mauri 2009
Captain Corelli's Mandolin is an emotionally satisfying, funny but at the same time harrowing account of a wartime relationship which ends with a seperation, and then the inevitable reuniting of the lovers. Set on the Greek Island of Cephellonia just as the second world war starts it is a facsinating account of the simplicity of pre war, small island, life. Unsually De Bernieres does not give us a classical introduction, instead we are taken through the first chapters by an aging greek doctor who is paid in local produce supplied by those who require his services and the heroines father, the Italian dictator Mussolini, a local strongman and an Italian gay solider named Carlo. The book is essentially a love story which is through a number of people, Pelgia (the heroine) and her finance Mandras, Carlo's unrequited love for an Italian corperal Francessco, Carlo's love for Captain Corelli and the passionate love that grows between Pelagia and Corelli. For those who have ever heard about those love affairs that started during the war years, this is what the book is about. It is hard to describe the envolvement the reader has in the novel, as we feel totally involved and feel so much for the characters. Pelagia and Corelli's love affair is something that the reader longs for and we know as soon as we meet Antonio that this is inevitable, and we wait impatiently for it to happen. De Berineres teases us with the "will they won't they" dillema, and Pelagia's feelings of guilt when she goes behind Mandras'es back to be with Corelli. As we know the Germans take over the Island, and with that comes the Italian surrender, I can not give the plot away, but can tell you I cried buckets while reading it and was so upset would not continue reading it for a further week. However I found the second half of the book hard to read. After Corelli leaves there is little humour of the
first half, and no more music which makes it alot less enjoyable to read. Although it ends happily, there is a feeling for me that the book isn't entirely believable and the second half is not good enough for us to suspend our disblief that we did for the first half. Generally I would say that this is a book worth reading and guarentee that you will be loadthed to put the book down. The first 3 chapters are a little bit ramdon to say the least, but you will soon get used to the way De Bernieres swaps the narrator and all will make sense when the characters come together. Once Corelli leaves it is alot less interesting, for me it was more boring, it was sad and I did not want to read it the way I did before. It becomes almost unrecognisable from the first half.
I had actually started reading the book before I watched the film, but found the first fifty pages of the book quite hard going and found that the story jumped around a bit. However after watching the film I decided to give the book a good go and took it on holiday with me. The story revolves around Pelagia in the second World War who lives on the beautiful island of Kefalonia with her father who is a doctor. Italian soldiers arrive on Kafelonia and are posted at various different houses, and Captain Correlli is at Pelagia and her father's house, and their relationship develops against the tragic happenings of the War. The main characters are developed well during the course of the story, and you feel that you know them by the end. Louis de Bernieres has written in a way in which you can be sympathetic with the characters, even to a certain extent the German who plays quite a main part in the story, both in a good and a bad way. This book made me laugh at various points as Louis de Bernieres does a good job of imputting humour into the text so it isnt all doom and gloom. However because the book is set in the Second World War, and is based on true events, there is tragedy as well in the story. This is the first book for a long time that has actually made me cry and I would recomend it wholeheartedly, especially if you are going on holiday to Kafelonia, as whilst I was there, everyone seemed to be reading it! It is worth persevering with the first 50 pages or so, as this is sure to be a book that you will remember for a long time.
I've seen the film Captain Corelli's Mandolin and wasn't overly impressed. It was ok in a bit of a syrupy way, but it didn't have much going for it except stunning scenery and a predictable love story. People have said that the book is so much better than the film, which is often the case with films adapted from the book. After seeing the book at my local library I decided to give it a try. It is an extremely good book and the film didn't come close to it's range and subtlety. Most of the book is set on the Greek Island of Cephallonia during the war years. I found the book quite hard to get into at first, but was really glad that I perserved. The story leaps around until you get used to the huge leaps in direction. For example the first chapter was set in Cephallonia and the second chapter gets inside Mussolini?' head and chronicles a rather odd episode from a day in 1940. It did seem that the author had gone off at an alarming tangent. These two chapters highlight two themes that run through the book, the political events that led to the Greek experience of World war 2 and the personal lifes of Greeks and Italians caught up in the Italian occupation of Cephallonia. Pelagia is a 17 year old girl who lives with her father Iannis, the local Cephallonia doctor. Louis paints an atmospheric picture of life on Cephallonia in the year leading up to the occupation. The inhabitants are lively and quirky with their fair share of eccentrics. Louis's description of the island makes it sound like a beautiful place. Tradition and religion are very important, religious festivals are celebrated and the local priest giving much more respect than his gluttonous alcoholism deserves. Since the death of her mother when she was little, Iannis has brought pelagia up to be educated especially by the island's standards. In the summer of 1940 Pelagia is young and healthy and filled with adolescent angst abou
t whether her suitor, Mandras will propose. The sun starts to set on the rather sunny beginning of the book when Mandras goes of to fight the Italians, who have invaded Greece. Other themes are introduced into the book, we meet the super strong homosexual Italian and hear about the dreadful suffering of the Italian soldiers who were being beaten by Greece up until the point when Germany came and helped them. Life gets hard for the characters in the book. Mandras returns from fighting a different person and goes of the join the Greek resistance. The Italians invade Cephallonia striking fear into the local population. Captain Antonio Corelli is a young officer posted to Cephallonia who is billeted into the doctor's house. He has an intense love of music and of course a mandolin, hence the title. He is a relaxed kind of soldier who wants an easy war and thinks he?s found it when he gets to Cephallonia. At first he is ostracised by Pelagia and her father whose patriotism won't allow them to be nice to him. Pelagia finds herself attracted to him and fights against this as she is still officially engaged to Mandras and Corelli is supposed to be her enemy. Meanwhile Mandras has joined a communist resistance group who seem to spend most of their time fanatically fighting other communist resistance groups. This was an interesting part of the book as I know very little about Greece's part in the war or the civil war directly after world war two that was between communist groups and monarchists. In Captain Corelli's mandolin you get a picture of how ordinary people on all sides are caught up in wars they don't always understand or want. The suffering and indecision of all sides is shown. The love story between Corelli and Pelagia shows that sometimes situations aren't as straightforward as good and bad people. I won't give away too much more of the plot. I'll just say that the story gets
very sad and savage in places and really puts the love between Pelagia and Corelli to the test. Louis De Berniers writing style quickly goes from being serious and sad to humorous. In fact there are some very funny, touching bits in a story that is very tragic in places. The one thing I wasn't keen on was the ending , but I won't say more than that!
Jeremy Paxman described as ?\Absolutely Excellent? and it has to go down as one of my personal favourites. If this book has managed to pass you by, it was first publsihed in 1995, then make sure you hunt it out and read it. Captain Corelli became a phenomenon in the late 1990?s and the popularity continued with the production of the film in 2001, but enough about that on to the story: The novel portrays life on the Greek Island of Cephallonia and revolves around the life of the doctor and his daughter Pelagia. It is Pelagia, not Captain Corelli who is the focus of this bittersweet love story, as she first falls in love with a sailor from her Island, then the charismatic Italian captain who was stationed in Cephallonia during the war and the ensuing love triangle. De Bernieres captures the reader?s imagination through many different ways, with the central themes being love, music and of course war. This novel is well researched and the information provided about Mussolini in particular, accurately portrayed the Italian dictator. Although superficially this seems like a romantic love story, Captain Corelli?s Mandolin goes much deeper than that- there are gruesome descriptions of the atrocities that take place during war. What infuriates most people that I know is the outcome at the end of the novel and it appears to have infuriated the screenwriters/film makers so much that they felt obliged to alter the ending. Despite this initial reaction, you begin to feel that the book could not have ended any other way to show the depth of feeling between the main players. I highly recommend this book to everyone and that is not something which I do lightly.
How far the great have fallen. Director John Madden has gone from making the 1998 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, "Shakespeare in love, "to what is easily one of the worst films of 2001. "Captain Corelli's Mandolin," based on the acclaimed novel by Louis de Bernieres, wears its false sentiment on its sleeve and its heart in its throat. A romance without passion, urgency, depth, or even a slight modicum of believability, the movie moves at a snail's pace to tell a story so misdirected and calamitously written, by Tim Bevan, that it holds neither an ounce of interest or involvement. Set on the Greek of Caphalonia at the start of World War ll, circa 1940, Pelagia[Penelope Cruz], the beautful daughter of the town's doctor, Dr lannis[John hurt], begins a courtship with Mandras[Christian Bale]. When he goes of to war, and she continuously writes without hearing a single reply, she fears the worst. Meanwhile, Cephalonia is overrun by the italians, and Pelagia and Dr. lannis find thenselves sharing a home with the Captian assigned to stay with them, Antonio Corelli[Nicolas Cage]. Corelli, a noble man who flawlessly plays the mandolin and loves opera, is instantly attracted to pelagia, even after Mandras returns from abroad. At first turned off by Corelli's positive outlook on everything, Pelagia soon gives into temptation and begins an affair with him, just as the strife between former allies italy and germany heightens, leaving Cephalonia under siege. What is so surprising by the failure to translate "Captain Corelli's Mandolin "from page to screen, given the talent on both sides of the camera, is that not one element works. As a realistic look at the ploblems that accumulated between Germany and Italy during World War ll, the whole affair is a strictly cut-and paste job, with nary a hint of insight into the subject matter. Likewise, the deep love that blossoms between Pelagi
a and Corelli is thoroughly unconvincing and off-putting. The first half of the picture, Pelagia more or less finds Corelli despicable, only to, without any warning, take a 180-degree turn and make longing looks at him. When the would-be pivotal moment arises in which they profess their love for one another, it is laughable rather than romantic or touching, because the movie has not earned the right to make their relationship a plausible one. The actors have turned in strong performances in the past, and will undoubtedly be good again, but you would never know it going solely by this film. Nicolas Cage the fmily man, Italian accent in tow but not a particularly passable one, is uncharismatic as dreamboat Antonio Carelli. His role is an underwritten one that almost feels like background shading. The central part goes to Penelope Cruz who has quickly made a name for herself on this side of the atlantic by popping up in one american film after the next in the last year. Cruz clearly has put a sizable amount of effort in making Pelagia a sympathetic character, but she apparently has decided to screw her required Greek accent and go with her normal, occasionally incomprehensible Spanish on. If not gorgeous scenery of Caphalonia that cinematographer John Toll has to offer, "Captain Corelli's Mandolin would have been ugly, awful motion picture.
I was unsure of what to expect when I started reading this book – I had read rave reviews, I had seen newspaper articles systematically dismantling what they perceived as a distortion of historical events, and of course I’d been exposed to the whole media circus surrounding the release of the film that is based on the book. That probably prompted me to read it, because it seemed to be one of those stories that would just be better to read, rather than seeing the soft-focus Hollywood adaptation on the silver screen. I was just a bit too late though, because as soon as the character of Captain Corelli appears, the only face I could put to him was that of Nicolas Cage, which is a shame as half the fun of reading a novel lies in visualising the people you read about in your own way. Still, that one gripe aside, I thought this was one of the most beautifully written books I had read in a long, long time. The story flows effortlessly from page to page, spans three generations of one family and dips in and out of various bloody episodes in the history of Greece as a whole and Cephallonia in particular, without ever adopting a dry and dispassionate tone. You get too see a life of contented poverty on this tiny Greek island before the onset of war, then you feel how the people struggled through the occupation by Axis forces and oppression by their own people, before the land was torn asunder by a far greater power beneath the Earth’s crust. This is not just a story of life on Cephallonia though; it is a story of love and desire, unrequited and forbidden passions burning in the hearts of young and old alike. The beautiful local girl, Pelagia, growing up under the watchful eye of her widower father Dr Iannis (a respected and valued member of the island community thanks to his medical expertise), meets and falls for the charms of Mandras, a rough and ready lad who sweeps her off her feet. However, war breaks out and Mandras proposes to Pelag
ia before heading for the hills to join the partisan resistance, leaving his betrothed to wait for him as the Italian forces occupy the island, but her love for him slowly wanes as he does not reply to her letters. You are also introduced to the other inhabitants of the village – the bloated, drunken priest who suddenly finds his vocation with the arrival of the enemy, the incredibly ugly mother of Mandras, and the Atlas-like Velisarios. Life for the men revolves around the kapheneion, which I imagine to be akin to the village hall, except that it is the exclusive preserve of the men, whose days seem to consist of sitting, talking politics, listening to the radio and occasionally checking to make sure that their wives and daughters are keeping the house clean and that dinner is on the table. Pelagia and her father enjoy an unconventional relationship as she is not the downtrodden black-clad drudge who does nothing but scrub and clean, which reflects her life as a whole – she is the one who later decides to cross the moral boundaries laid down by history, and breaks with social conventions. The eponymous Captain Corelli doesn’t make an appearance until the story is well under way, an interesting device that I felt worked extremely well in this case. Quite often, authors decide to throw every character at the reader within the first few pages, which can lead to confusion as there is then very limited time and space to provide the background information that makes a name on a page become a credible character, and somehow jump out of the book and into your head. This way, the scene was set for one of the main players to step onto the stage, and the character of Corelli seems to fit perfectly with the admittedly idealised picture of life that has been painted for the reader. By the time the Italians land, you feel totally at home with life on the island – you know who is a royalist and who is a communist, you know which
man thought he was deaf but had a pea lodged in his ear (bizarre as that may sound...), you know who tends the herd of goats high up in the hills, and you know quite a bit about the history of the Greek islands, thanks to Iannis’ inner monologue and his attempts at writing a history of his homeland. The islanders are supposed to hate the occupying forces, but of course when two soldiers are forcibly billeted in the family home, Pelagia finds herself slowly and inexorably drawn to the charms of the young officer who has now commandeered her room. You know this is coming, that’s the whole point of the story, but the subject is dealt with so sensitively that you are never quite, quite sure whether your original thoughts were correct. The haunting music of the mandolin is what first catches Pelagia’s attention, and events move on gracefully from there. The tentative courtship is described very gently, with stolen caresses and furtive glances seeming to leap from the page as the two young lovers (in the purest sense of the word) gradually move closer to one another, spending forbidden hours in each other’s company in an abandoned house in the woods. Although this is the main story, you are never allowed to lose sight of the other strands of history and fiction that weave seamlessly in and out of Pelagia and Antonio’s relationship. There is the touching and sad story of Carlo, Corelli’s faithful adjutant, who is hiding a broken heart and a secret that can never be revealed as long as he is a professional soldier, yet who proves himself to be the most loyal and reliable friend anyone could ever wish for. You suffer with Carlo and the Italian troops as they are battered and harried by fanatical Greek soldiers in the mountains during Mussolini’s ill-fated attempts to expand the new Roman empire. You meet the partisans in the mountains, whose acts of liberation amount to little more than threatening and robbing th
e people they are allegedly protecting, and growing fat on the proceeds. You cannot help but laugh at the absurd British officers who parachute in behind enemy lines to try and co-ordinate resistance, dressed in ridiculous garb and speaking ancient Greek, which is beautifully parodied with Shakespearean English. In short, you get used to life under Italian occupation, and the swift sea change that heralds the assumption of power by the Germans, and then the end of the war, is rendered unexpected as the reader has been lulled into a sense of security and routine after two years with the lackadaisical Italians in control, much as the islanders themselves had been. Does the story have a happy ending? Well, that would be telling – suffice to say that you will sort of see what is coming, but probably not in the way that you first thought. Time is suddenly compressed and the story speeds on to more recent times, which does detract a little from the languid style of the rest of the book, I felt. Many questions have been raised about the accuracy of the book – would Pelagia’s fraternisation with the enemy really have been tolerated by everyone else? How true are the author’s ruminations on the nature of history, and the behaviour of the Italian and German soldiers? How accurate are Louis de Bernieres’ assertions with regard to the actions of the partisans during and after the war? There were many enraged responses to the portrayal of partisans as idle vagabonds who acted purely for personal gain, proving themselves to be bloodthirsty and callous and preferring to let others do the fighting. I’m no expert on Greek history and I don’t know the truth behind this, but you have to trust the author to have done his homework. Indeed, de Bernieres himself states that he is eternally grateful for the historical help he received, and the historians should not be held responsible for his interpretation of the mater
ial. And that is what this book is about, an interpretation of history, combined with several enduring love stories. This is meant to put a smile on your face and make you basically feel good about the world - it’s a novel, not a textbook. It is beautifully written, with some genuinely touching moments, and you feel like you have got to know the characters, and seen them live, love and die. A wonderful book, which I recommend wholeheartedly.
British author Louis de Bernières is well known for his forays into magical realism in such novels as The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts, Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord and The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman. Here he keeps it to a minimum, though certainly the secondary characters with whom he populates his island--the drunken priest, the strongman, the fisherman who swims with dolphins--would be at home in any of his wildly imaginative Latin American fictions. Instead, de Bernières seems interested in dissecting the nature of history as he tells his ever-darkening tale from many different perspectives. Captain Corelli's Mandolin works on many levels, as a love story, a war story and a deconstruction of just what determines the facts that make it into the history books.