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Corelli's Mandolin (1995)

Corelli's Mandolin (1995)

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3.91 of 5 Votes: 2
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067976397X (ISBN13: 9780679763970)

About book Corelli's Mandolin (1995)

This is one of those books that I didn't actually have much interest in reading; nothing about it appealed to me, and watching the movie a few years ago didn't change that. But for some reason that eludes me now, I picked up a copy from somewhere, and after having it sit on my shelf for another year or so, I finally read it as part of my 2010 TBR Challenge. And I must say, as mentally exerting as it can be at times, it was well worth it.Set on the picturesque Greek island of Cephallonia during WWII, the novel has a much broader focus than just the island and several key characters. It is, if nothing else, a chronicle of the war from the Greek perspective - a forgotten, overlooked perspective. While on the island, the story is about beautiful Pelagia, the doctor's daughter, and her romance with an Italian captain, Antonio Corelli, but the larger novel is also about the absurdity of war; the rise of a fascist group in Greece after the War, who pretended to be Communists (or maybe we should just change the meaning of the word "communist" since there are so few "real" communists that are anything like socialists); the failure of the Allies to protect Greece, over-run as it was with Nazis; the sad poignancy of unrequited love; how illiteracy and lack of education can lead to brain-washing; and how a life of sorrow and bitter loneliness can be lived based solely on a misperception. It's a hard book to summarise beyond the basics, and a harder book still to talk about because it's so busy. Slow and steady but highly detailed and shifting often between parallel stories. Different characters carry their own storyline, sometimes for just a chapter, sometimes ongoing, all serving to flesh out the context of what's happening in and around Cephallonia. It's quite the masterpiece, but like many things worth reading, it's not the easiest read. It can be dense, and slow, and at times even a bit obscure. The first, oh, 120 pages took me about two weeks to read and I honestly wondered if I'd be able to finish it; then, finally, Captain Corelli turned up and things really picked up. The next two hundred pages went by in a flash before it slowed down a bit, leading towards a comfortably-paced ending.The aspect of the novel that deals with the war, with the mechanics of it, the poor organisation, the fruitlessness of it, the absurdity of it, reminded me strongly of Catch-22. Leaders are portrayed as either buffoons or sad, impotent losers. Their decisions are farcical, and people die for it. It's tragic, and yet like many tragic things, heavily loaded with irony. Or perhaps we could say, irony is heavy loaded with tragedy. Either way, the impact hits you right in the gut.One of my favourite characters was Carlo, the secretively gay Bombardier who loves deeply but must always keep it to himself. He is a real hero, and from his journal as well as how we see him through other characters' eyes, he becomes a truly beloved character. He wasn't the only character - the novel is populated with engaging characters, people like Dr Iannis and his garrulous friends, Psipsina the pine marten and the delightfully curious Lemoni. The main characters - Pelagia, Dr Iannis, Antonio, Mandras and Carlo - are the most fully-realised, all their flaws laid bare as well as their strengths. And because the story takes place not just before and during the war, but well into the 90s, we see their lives play out like a true Shakespearian tragi-comedy.I would have loved a map of the region, though. While I was able to keep up with most of the larger-scale events thanks to teaching history and reading Safe Area Goražde about the war in Bosnia, I knowledge of the European map is a bit sketchy (for some reason I struggle to even mentally place where France is in relation to other countries, and vice versa - it's always lower than I expect it to be) and I wasn't always sure where action was taking place. A map of southern Europe, with places relevant to the story included, would have really helped me, especially in that first 120 pages. As for events, it is beneficial to have a working knowledge of WWII - some things are clearly explained and expanded on, and the Greek aspect, like I said, is well covered; but at times I lost my place in events and time.The tragic irony - those two always go hand-in-hand, don't they? - that permeates the novel at times makes it more heartbreaking than if it had been straight and serious. More sympathetic, certainly. There are times when the story turns brutal - or, rather, depicts the brutality of war, and I'm not talking about dying in battle, to which we still consider a certain degree of honour is attached. It's especially heart-wrenching to consider that the best phase of the war for the Cephallonians were the golden days when the Italians "occupied" them - reluctantly, and quite differently from the Nazis whom they shared occupation with. To see what happened after Italy changed sides, I'd like to think that de Bernières is exaggerating, but the Jews were by no means the only ethnic or religious group to suffer under the Nazis, I'll leave it at that.I did have a few quotes I wanted to share, while I was reading it, but a good week has gone by since I finished it, and considering it took me over a month to read, I can't remember where they were or what they were. But it does have some fantastic lines, dry, witty, sophisticated, harsh, honest, sweet and shy. It's an impressive novel, and while I don't know that I'll be reading any more of his books in the near future - it was an absolute slog, after all - I was still deeply impressed by what he achieved with Captain Corelli's Mandolin.

This is Benito Mussolini, one-time Fascist dictator of Italy and streetlight ornament of the same: And this is Mussolini talking.Unless you understand Italian, you have no idea what he's saying. But I bet, even without the historical context, you understand that he's a major asshole. Just look at the body language.In a way, Louis de Bernières is a lot like that, a little in love with himself. His authorial blurb tells of his many manly adventures. He holds an advanced degree, but is desperate to come off as some sort of blue collar polymath. His novel suffers from it; just as Mussolini put on a façade to impress, so does de Bernières. At times, the first 150 pages read like a guy going through a thesaurus. The dialogue is solid, but he gets carried away with the narration. He flirts with magical realism, and does so in a manner more effective than most. I would provide an example, but I donated my copy to the local library.One also gets the sense that he favors the equatorial lifestyle to the exclusion of all others. I have no problem with this (I, myself, prefer said lifestyle), but always casting the natives and Italians in a favorable light and never the Germans? It comes off a bit tidy. Maybe it helps move a love story that takes place during WWII from point to point. The ending is just about the most unsatisfying thing I have ever read.

Do You like book Corelli's Mandolin (1995)?

First off...I don't know why this says the title is "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" when I'm staring at the book and it's clearly "Corelli's Mandolin." The "Captain" was added for the movie, but I can't find a correct link for the purposes of Goodreads.First off, let me state that the movie was terrible, so don't go by that. Give this book a chance! It will make you laugh/cry/sigh/think. It really is in my top 5 books of all time. It was a really beautiful story set against the backdrop of WWII. I love how much it made me laugh. Don't get me wrong, it's not a laugh riot through and through, but what de Bernieres does exceptionally well is make you laugh when you are least expecting to. :) I. Love. This. Book. Is that coming across? ;)Funny story: My friend, Anke, who is German, was in town when the movie came out and we were trying to decide what to go see and she stated that she liked Nicholas Cage, so we opted for that. Well, I am an idiot. I had completely forgotten that this book is not at all kind to the Germans (justifiably). While the movie was awful, it was not made any better by my extreme discomfort at basically bringing up a major blight on my very good and kind friend's national history for two hours. While *those* Germans made bad choices, she had nothing to do with it. I felt awful! :( But, she forgave me, because she's cool like that. :)
—Holly Bond

4.5 stars really.Thank goodness I was able to read this without imagining Penelope Cruz and Nicholas Cage as the characters (it helps that I never saw the movie). Penelope as a Greek beauty just doesn't work for me.I really enjoyed this book...I loved that it was more than a love story between a man and a woman, but also between father and daughter, man/woman and country and between friends and honor.I am a sucker for historical writing...I loved that de Bernieres addressed the emotionality that is inherent in writing a history. Can anyone ever really be emotionally removed from history? I don't think so. But, maybe that is just me.

The author may have tried to accomplish too much with this story. Like Shakespeare and Melville, he includes passages that could practically stand alone as good advice on living or doing something. There are some high-level summaries of historical developments that perhaps do not belong here, at least in that format. There is a certain amount of technical detail about music that left me behind. He could have just deleted the early chapter on Mussolini. And if I wanted to be picky (I don't) I could point out developments that felt a little contrived. Those are my reservations.But on the other hand we have the depth and appeal of the principal characters, and the author's affectionate and benevolent view (while not failing to acknowledge their human limitations). The story opened my eyes to a region and to events that were new to me, brought a range of heartfelt responses including laughter and tears, and kept me riveted from start to finish. I was sorry to reach the end. This may not be a great novel, but it's very, very, very good -- certainly better in terms of character development than others of a similar genre (say, Doctor Zhivago or Gone With the Wind).
—Stephen Gallup

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