Thursday, August 2, 2012

Book Review: Captain Corelli's Mandolin

No, I'm not talking about the movie with Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz. Honestly, I never saw it, but from what I've read about it after reading the book, there is no way that the movie can be as good as the book, because it completely misses some important characters, and tells only a part of the story, and that not very well. Hollywood could never do justice to a book like this one.

I had the pleasure of reading Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres (Vintage 1994, ISBN 0-09-9288028) during the week we spent in Waterton at the beginning of July. The fact that scenes from the book are still playing in my head now, at the beginning of August, tells me that it is one of those wonderful, rare books with plenty of food for thought. I just wish the cover of mine didn't have the movie marquee on it, because in my mind, it's not so much a romance as a story of the deep integrity of people in the midst of war.

Most of the story takes place during the brief Italian occupation of Greece during World War II. It tells the story of the burgeoning relationship between a Greek family and the Italian mandolin virtuoso captain of the squadron that is put in charge of the Greek island of Cephallonia. De Bernieres evokes the beauty of Greece and the historical ambience of the time with both witty and heartbreaking narrative involving many complex characters and plot turns that stir not only the mind, but the heart and soul as well.

From the opening episode of Doctor Iannis' housecall to remove a pea from the ear of an old man to the concluding motorcycle ride, I found myself in love with the densely satisfying language De Bernieres used to tell his story. It felt as though I was reading a classic novel but for the fact that its subject matter was so recent. It opened my eyes to a part of history of which I had been unaware. It evoked the joy of first love and the horrors of war equally well, and it held several characters that I will remember and mull over for a long time, in particular, Carlo Guercio, Captain Antonio Corelli, Doctor Iannis, and Pelagia, the doctor's spirited daughter.

I was joking with friends at the beginning of summer that it was time to read some "fluff," but this does not fall into that category at all. As a lover of historical fiction, I can't recommend Captain Corelli's Mandolin enough, and wish I had suggested it to my book club rather than the one I did (which shall not be named).

Have you read anything good this summer?

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