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Captain Corelli's mandolin by Louis De…
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Captain Corelli's mandolin (original 1994; edition 1998)

by Louis De Bernières

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,813115728 (3.95)248
Member:gennyt
Title:Captain Corelli's mandolin
Authors:Louis De Bernières
Info:London : Vintage, 1998. Paperback.
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:read 1990s, fiction, english literature, historical fiction, Greece, Kefalonia, WWII, war, love story

Work details

Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières (1994)

  1. 40
    Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernières (Booksloth)
  2. 21
    Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner (thepequodtwo)
    thepequodtwo: Both de Bernieres and Kushner skillfully intertwine multiple story threads and characters to create a sense of time and place both passing and changing that is vivid and powerful.
  3. 10
    Eleni by Nicholas Gage (Booksloth)
  4. 11
    The Magus by John Fowles (Booksloth, edwinbcn)
  5. 00
    The Winds of War by Herman Wouk (paulkid)
    paulkid: Both are set in Mussolini's Italy, although Wouk's work spends time in Germany, Russia, and England while de Bernières spends time in Greece as well.
  6. 11
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  7. 11
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    Aphrodite's War by Andrea Busfield (aliklein)
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    The Hidden by Tobias Hill (Booksloth)
  11. 01
    Guernica by Dave Boling (BCCJillster)
    BCCJillster: Different country, different war, same gusto of characterization and sense of place and community
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» See also 248 mentions

English (105)  Dutch (3)  Norwegian (2)  Spanish (2)  German (1)  English (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (115)
Showing 1-5 of 105 (next | show all)
This has been one of my favourite novels since it was first published and I must have read it a number of times. And Doctor Iannis is one of my favourite characters too. I think de Bernières gives him quite a few of his own ideas, ones which I find quite thought-provoking even if they’re not central to the themes. For example, early on, when we find Iannis thinking ‘every man needs an obsession to enjoy life’, I found myself pausing to turn this over in my mind – and to agree that this is probably true. It’s akin to Fitzgerald/Carraway stating in ‘The Great Gatsby’ that ‘life is much more successfully looked at from a single window’.

Having read ‘Birds without Wings’ since my last reading of this book, I’m aware that de Bernières is probably closely following history but he manages this without all that showing off of research that accompanies so many historical novels. Instead we have the focus on the characters and with the author switching perspectives so many times, we have rich characterisation indeed.

It’s clear that de Bernières enjoys language and on the whole I think this works well – perhaps less so when it comes to the general political situation and the main politicians. Some of the passages really stand out, though. The opening, pea-in-ear incident makes an excellent start and when Corelli comes in, there are a lot of amusing descriptions.

I found the sections dealing with Doctor Iannis, Pelagia and Corelli the most enticing. The developing romance between Pelagia and Corelli might, of itself, attract readers but I think it’s the amusing way in which de Bernières surprises the reader that holds our attention. Less interesting to me were the ones to do with the politics of the day, for example, the megalomaniacal Hector lecturing Mandras and others on revolutionary theory.

I remember when I first read this book that I felt really let down at the way de Bernières distances the characters after Corelli leaves the island so I was bracing myself for this change of focus this time round. One sentence struck me as probably demonstrative of the change when Pelagia thinks it’s the ghost of Corelli that visits the island each year: ‘she was able to live satisfied, knowing that she had not been deserted and cast off, filled with happy reveries of being desired and cherished even in her dry and fading spinsterhood’. And it does still seem to me that this is simplistic and unconvincing. I can see how the author was attracted to an ending which didn’t wrap up things sentimentally – just as Frazier was able to avoid this in ‘Cold Mountain – but I felt the latter author managed this with more finesse, especially with the subtlety of Ada and Inman’s baby balancing the death of Inman.

Still, although de Bernières cut out all the dialogue and silences Iannis first by his lack of speech and then by his demise, I found myself appreciating aspects of the ending, especially where he compares the past with the present – such as Britain quickly coming to the help of Greece when the earthquake struck because ‘it had not yet acquired the schoolboy habit of waiting for months for permission from Washington before it clambered out of its post-imperial bed, put on its boots, made a sugary cup of tea, and ventured through the door’ – something that could be a description of Australia’s approach to world affairs if it were not for Australia’s recalcitrance as far as climate change goes.

And of course de Bernières gives the characters their voices back at the end even if the pages between Corelli leaving and coming back cause the book to lose its momentum. Although I see this novel, then, as uneven, its best parts are so inspired that I can only give it a top rating. ( )
  evening | Nov 29, 2014 |
To say the least, Corelli’s Mandolin is a very ambitious book. Across its sprawling scope, it can simultaneously be viewed as a love story (several love stories, in fact), a war story, a multi-generational family saga, a work of historical fiction, and a non-so-thinly veiled political diatribe against “isms” of all kinds—Nazism, Fascism, Imperialism, Communism. It is also, in alternating measures, a book that is funny, wise, heartbreakingly sad, harrowing, and life-affirming. Finally, it is a celebration of the enduring beauty that can be found in music, whether in the form of operatic arias sung by home-sick soldiers or tremolos played on the mandolin.

The center of de Bernières’ story involves Pelagia, a young Greek woman, and Antonio Corelli, a captain in the Italian Army, who fall in love during the early stages of World War II. Under Mussolini’s orders, the Italian militia has come to occupy much of Greece, including Pelagia’s island home of Cephallonia. This puts the Italians in direct conflict with the Nazi occupying force, but also places Corelli into the home where Pelagia lives with her father, Dr. Iannis, the island’s physician and unofficial historian. Despite the deprivation going on around them—and the fact that she is already betrothed to Mandras, a local fisherman—the affection between Pelagia and Corelli deepens during the relatively idyllic days before reality sets in. Indeed, it is when the war comes in full force to their small corner of the world that these two find out just how star-crossed their love actually is.

I enjoyed reading Corelli’s Mandolin quite a bit and learned a lot of specific history that I had not known before. That said, though, the novel really felt like three distinct works fused together: an initial part involving life on Cephallonia before and shortly after the invasion, which was singularly charming and consumed most of the book; a brief middle part involving the brutality and inhumanity of the war; and another short final segment spanning the island’s post-war period over the subsequent 40 years. Only the first two of these sections worked for me; in fact, the last part felt far too rushed and the way in which the author chose to end the novel was both implausible and a little disappointing. Nevertheless, this is a book that can be savored on a number of levels and it is one that I have no hesitance in recommending. ( )
1 vote browner56 | Nov 4, 2014 |
I read this novel a long time ago but remember it fondly, though I do seem to remember it dragged out a bit toward the end once the action moved to the mainland and the war in earnest. Vast in its coverage of life, love, geography and of the ravages of war, it is a wonderful, exciting historic romance. ( )
  wendyburrill | Oct 20, 2014 |
2012, AudioGO Ltd, Read by Michael Maloney

“I am not a cynic, but I do know that history is the propaganda of the victors.” (Ch 6)

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is a vast, sprawling narrative, the main thread of which focuses on Pelagia and her father Dr Iannis, who live on the beautiful Greek island of Cephallonia. Against the backdrop of WWII and the Italian and German occupation of Cephallonia, Pelagia and Captain Corelli, an Italian officer who is a gifted musician, fall deeply in love. Various narrators include an omniscient voice, secret letters, the historical writings of Iannis, and the imagined megalomaniacal ravings of Mussolini. Many of the images of war are graphic; de Bernières himself described this as a novel about "what happens to the little people when megalomaniacs get busy."

In beautiful, poetic prose, de Bernières delivers memorable characters, including Palagia’s goat and her “cat.” Themes include the many forms of love, music, study and literacy, the devastation of war. This is a novel rich in historical description. Truthfully, I found the breadth and depth of it almost too ambitious for a single novel and occasionally found myself losing track in the sheer sprawl of it. (By the mid 1960s, I was beginning to wonder if de Bernières was planning on a history of the world, or whether the conclusion was in sight). And I found the ending, in terms of Palagia and Corelli, stretched believability to the point of convenience.

I read this now because it is in [1001 Books] and because I was curious. While I loved the writing, this one is guardedly recommended for the reasons expressed above. Michael Maloney, on the other hand, is highly, highly recommended. Extraordinary narrator! ( )
3 vote lit_chick | Aug 5, 2014 |
This book is a work of art. Everything about it is wonderful. It has everything in it that makes a great story. Even if the romance between the two main characters had been the only focus of the book it would still have been a brilliant story.
I watched the film before I read the book and hoped that it wouldn't spoil it and it didn't. Despite the little differences - and Nicholas Cage's dodgy Italian accent ;)- the film, I feel, does the book justice. If you've read the book and not watched the film, watch it! And vise versa. Beautiful story that makes you feel good. ( )
  IceMaiden786 | May 31, 2014 |
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Louis de Bernièresprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davids, TinkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
[poem] The Soldier by Humbert Wolfe
Dedication
To my mother and father, who in different places and in different ways fought against the Fascists and the Nazis, lost many of their closest friends, and were never thanked.
First words
Dr. Iannis had enjoyed a satisfactory day in which none of his patients had died or got any worse.
Quotations
‘Love is a kind of dementia with very precise and oft-repeated clinical symptoms. You blush in each other’s presence, you both hover in places where you expect the other to pass, you are both a little tongue-tied, you both laugh inexplicably and too long, you become quite nauseatingly girlish, and he becomes quite ridiculously gallant.’
‘And another thing. Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like a volcano and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever be apart. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body... That is just being ‘in love’ which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.'
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 067976397X, Paperback)

In the early days of the Second World War, before Benito Mussolini invaded Greece, Dr. Iannis practices medicine on the island of Cephalonia, accompanied by his daughter, Pelagia, to whom he imparts much of his healing art. Even when the Italians do invade, life isn't so bad--at first anyway. The officer in command of the Italian garrison is the cultured Captain Antonio Corelli, who responds to a Nazi greeting of "Heil Hitler" with his own "Heil Puccini," and whose most precious possession is his mandolin. It isn't long before Corelli and Pelagia are involved in a heated affair--despite her engagement to a young fisherman, Mandras, who has gone off to join Greek partisans. Love is complicated enough in wartime, even when the lovers are on the same side. And for Corelli and Pelagia, it becomes increasingly difficult to negotiate the minefield of allegiances, both personal and political, as all around them atrocities mount, former friends become enemies, and the ugliness of war infects everyone it touches.

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. 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. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:06 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

A captivating and mystical story of life and love during the wartime Italian occupation of the isolated Greek island of Cephallonia. Extravagant, inventive, emotionally sweeping, this rich and lyrical, heartbreaking and hilarious novel has been widely hailed as a classic. Set on the peaceful island of Cephallonia, just as the horrors of World War II reach its remote shores, Corelli's Mandolin is "an exuberant mixture of history and romance, written with a wit that is incandescent" (Los Angeles Times Book Review). Corelli's Mandolin is the story of a timeless place that one day wakes up to find itself in the jaws of history. The place is the Greek island of Cephallonia, where gods once dabbled in the affairs of men and the local saint periodically rises from his sarcophagus to cure the mad. Then the tide of World War II rolls onto the island's shores in the form of the conquering Italian army. Caught in the midst of the occupation are Pelagia, a willful, beautiful young woman, and the two suitors vying for her love and affection: Mandras, a gentle fisherman turned ruthless, murderous guerilla, and the charming, mandolin-playing Captain Corelli, a reluctant officer of the Italian garrison on the island. Rich with loyalties and betrayals, and set against a landscape where the factual blends seamlessly with the fantastic, Corelli's Mandolin is a passionate novel as rich in ideas as it is genuinely moving.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 9 descriptions

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