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Captain Corelli's Mandolin (1994)

by Louis De Bernières

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,548148998 (3.93)344
Extravagant, inventive, emotionally sweeping, 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 Cephalonia, 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 occupation are Pelagia, a willful, beautiful young woman, and the two suitors vying for her love: Mandras, a gentle fisherman turned ruthless guerrilla, and the charming, mandolin-playing Captain Corelli, a reluctant officer of the Italian garrison on the island.… (more)
  1. 60
    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. 21
    Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst (TomWaitsTables)
  4. 10
    Eleni by Nicholas Gage (Booksloth)
  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
    The Magus by John Fowles (Booksloth, edwinbcn)
  7. 11
    Regeneration by Pat Barker (flissp)
  8. 01
    Aphrodite's War by Andrea Busfield (aliklein)
  9. 01
    A Winter's Night by Valerio Massimo Manfredi (rrmmff2000)
  10. 01
    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
  12. 45
    Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (Booksloth)
  13. 01
    Little Infamies by Panos Karnezis (Booksloth)
  14. 01
    A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell (starfishian)
  15. 35
    Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (krizia_lazaro)
  16. 13
    The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (Johanna11)
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» See also 344 mentions

English (134)  Dutch (4)  Norwegian (2)  Spanish (2)  German (1)  Swedish (1)  Greek (1)  All (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (147)
Showing 1-5 of 134 (next | show all)
Great book with a lousy ending. It was almost as if he tired of telling the story so he just quit.
It could have gotten a much higher rating with a more studied ending. ( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
A good, old fashioned novel about the horrors of WWII and the mid-20th century in general, writ small in the microcosm of the Greek island of Kephallonia. Themes include the difference between patriotism and national identity, the difference between being "in love" and what love actually is, wry observations about the church, Greek national identity, the struggle between modernization and the traditional world, and the will of a people to emerge intact from unimaginable suffering. de Bernieres is funny at times, and at times appalling, but always compelling. It was published in the early 90's, so it is interesting to read in the light of the current, deplorable state of the Greek nation. Best book I've read since Michael Crummey's 'Galore'. ( )
  MaryJeanPhillips | Jun 22, 2022 |
I read this book in my late teens / early twenties, and adored it. So with war in Europe again, I went back to see if the suck fairy had visited...

And was pleasantly surprised! It remains lyrical, entrancing, heartbreaking and stirring, staying with your heart like the last chords of mandolin music echoing over the hills.

It is such an odd book. de Bernieres' ridiculously over the top prose isn't even trying to be literary, but somehow the florid and convoluted sentences are just right for drawing out the personalities of his characters and the world they live in. And it is the carefully drawn personalities that make this book. It is so easy to fall in love with Psipsina the pine marten, the gentle Doctor with his rambling history, and of course Pelagia and her handsome captain. Even the baddies are drawn sympathetically and complexly. Bits remind me of Ulysses, that very stream-of-conscious intimate insight into people's minds.

When I was younger I read it for the love triangle - betrothed to a man she can no longer love, Pelagia falls for an Italian captain, and must hide her love or be branded a collaborator. Now I am older, the themes of PTSD and being broken by tragedy are so much clearer - Mandras, broken by the horrors of war, Dr Iannis who never speaks again after the earthquake, Pelagia nursing her father's grave... The war in this book is horrific and traumatic, flesh sloughing off from frostbite, doomed marches with little reason or hope...

There are a few things that are more uncomfortable to me now though. At the time, the book was one of the first I had encountered with a sympathetic gay character. Now the story of 'gay man stays closetted his entire life and dies heroically saving the man he loves' is more uncomfortable than it was then,. And Corelli's homophobia, while realistic, is so sad: 'I wish you hadn't shown me these. I've just realised that I'm more old fashioned than I thought'. Also, for all Pelagia is painted as So Awesome and going to be a female doctor, she is surprisingly passive in much of the main storyline, and the lengths the book goes to to have her still pure and virginal and making sure we all know this is slightly uncomfortable. 'She is going to bring up a child! But definitely not Her Child!' 'She is going to get raped by her ex fiance! But definitely Not Enough to make her Damaged Goods!' The way she waits around for Corelli forever, but never actually does any kind of research on Italian mandarin players, would be amazingly annoying, if it wasn't contrasted with the supremely ridiculous 'I came all this way to see you but ran away because you were holding a baby' behaviour of Corelli.

Then again, maybe that's what I love about this book, the characters are full of human foibles and ridiculousness, and that's what makes them lovable even as we roll our eyes at them. ( )
  atreic | Mar 24, 2022 |
I started reading this one because it appeared in a movie (Notting Hill, I think it was) and got some press from that, and then I heard it was being adapted for the screen. I started it and couldn't get into it, then picked it up again later and ended up loving it. ( )
  jlweiss | Apr 23, 2021 |
This was a book of two halves and the first half I loved; indeed Captain Corelli's Mandolin was lining up to my favourite novel of all time by about half way through. I mean, I don't know if the bit about the German captain so upset to be captured in an embarrassing way that his British captor had to tach him how to play Ludo to cheer him up is a piece of history de Bernieres plucked out to include in his story but if it's not it should be.

So, I was somewhat disappointed to read the second half and find, to my growing disquiet, that I hated it. Absolutely despised it. I have never read a book which has two halves so unlike each other that I'm tempted to believe they were originally two different books inexpertly grafted on to each other like a less amusing The Thing With Two Heads. ( )
  MiaCulpa | Jan 4, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 134 (next | show all)
Just a sumptuous read. It made me cry.
added by Cynfelyn | editThe Guardian, Jon Snow (Nov 19, 1999)
 

» Add other authors (35 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
De Bernières, Louisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anderson, MarjorieCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bogin, LubinCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davids, TinkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Engen, BodilTranslatorsecondary 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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Extravagant, inventive, emotionally sweeping, 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 Cephalonia, 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 occupation are Pelagia, a willful, beautiful young woman, and the two suitors vying for her love: Mandras, a gentle fisherman turned ruthless guerrilla, and the charming, mandolin-playing Captain Corelli, a reluctant officer of the Italian garrison on the island.

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Average: (3.93)
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