Mar 30, 08
folks who know where to stop reading
Read in January, 2000
This is two books. The first half is without doubt one of the best novels I have ever read. The writing (even in translation) is lyrical; clearly, every word was carefully chosen. The characters are exquisitely drawn with humor and humanity. The plot, centering on the Italian invasion of a remote Greek island in WWII, is a wonderfully engaging love story. It flows amiably along to a logical and satisfying, if not quite "happy," ending.
Unfortuntely, things don't stop there. The second half of the book is drek. One gets the feeling that de Bernieres presented his publishers with a perfect novella and was told "make it longer" or, perhaps, "but you have to finish the story." Whatever the cause, the change in pace, use of language, and sheer thoughtfulness is jarring. It's as if the author completely lost interest in his characters, but felt obliged to carry them to some long-term conclusion.
It's a crying shame, because if this book had stopped where it should have, it would be one of the greatest books of the 20th (21st?) century.