Pat's Reviews > Captain Corelli's Mandolin

Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières
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Mar 30, 08

Recommended for: 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.
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Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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message 1: by Retarius (last edited Jul 11, 2008 12:37AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Retarius The last bit, where he comes back pretending to be his own ghost, did me in...what a wasted opportunity of a book.


message 2: by Beth (new)

Beth I am curious, where would you have ended the book? I must say, I was completely satisfied with the book until I read your review--and I am afraid that I must agree about the latter part of the book not being as lyrical in plot or prose, but I still enjoyed it and at least every now and again, a 'happily ever after' is a nice change from reality, especially the reality of war.


message 3: by Pat (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pat It's been a while since I read the book, so I can't point at an exact page/chapter, but the "first" book seemed to end when Corelli went away. Basically, it's where the pace changed, from luxuriously slow exposition to wham!bam! years flying by, babies growing up, mysterious strangers coming & going, bing-bam-boom. I personally found the "unhappy" ending of his departure much more satisfying both philosophically and artistically.


message 4: by Beth (new)

Beth Thanks for your comments. You are right,I wonder if this was a case of an editor taking ownership...or maybe de Bernieres got tired. Anyway, I appreciated your input; and I enjoyed learning about a time and place that was new to me.


message 5: by Hayes (new)

Hayes I couldn't have said it better myself... I'm forcing myself to get through it - it's my second attempt - and I'm wondering if I should even bother. So many liked it, however, that I was wondering if I had missed something.


Retarius The problem I had with this was that the author relapsed into the magical realism style used in his first three books, which nobody reads. I think it just showed a failure of imagination. There was a little mysticism in the work before the relapse, but it was peripheral and tolerable. The change of direction clashes badly with the dramatic intensity of the earlier material, particularly the execution of the Italians which Corelli survives. I was really exasperated with it in a way I've never felt about a book before or since; it contains some of the most beautiful writing in the English language. It deserved a better conclusion than going off into a stupid, unbelievable burlesque.


message 7: by Pat (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pat well said, Retarius!


Joan Winnek Did you read it in a language other than English? Despite his French-sounding name, De Berneieres is British and writes in English.


Mandy Joan, you beat me to it...my question is the same.... was puzzled by the remark about translation.


message 10: by Joan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joan Winnek I have yet to read this book, have it checked out from the library in anticipation of my book club meeting to discuss it on 8 September. Now I'm really not looking forward to it. Someone tell me I'll enjoy it, please!


message 11: by Pat (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pat Re translation: You got me. I wrongly assumed it was written in a language other than English. Not sure where I got that, but... you are right.

Joan, you will enjoy the first half immensely. :)


message 12: by Liz (new)

Liz Milner Well put! My BS detector went into high gear in the second half of the book. Also, all of the characters' internal monologues sound the same.


message 13: by Liz (new)

Liz Milner Also,a key character does a drastic personality change (from sweet but dim to homicidal) for no apparent reason. I think de B wanted to make a point about ideology warping character but the transformation didn't seem credible to me.


Romina i studied this book for lit alevel and i agree that the second half of the book is definitely less beautiful and prose like. HOWEVER this is a major point and technique of the book. the second half is rushed, dull and flows quickly to reflect a) generally the tragic and long lasting after effects of war and civil war. dont forget it is primarily a historical novel and Debernieres wants to reflect the lost chance and hope for the couple and many other people because of the war in the bittersweet ending. b) on an emotional level it reflects pelagias and corellis dullness in their life without each other- their lives have no meaning and they live just to live, just like the book flows without emotion. if you notice the ending when they reconcile is the only part of 'this' novel that has some spark and life and this reflects their feelings. c) the second half is also a reflection of modern day technological society and how monotonous it has become; u find urself so nostalgic for the little house and the water well that u almost cry at how quickly time has gone and how life develops amazingly fast which also makes you think about your own life. again it reflects what actually happened in history post war. i hope this has helped you to see the second half in an alternative light :)


message 15: by Pat (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pat Liz wrote: "Also,a key character does a drastic personality change (from sweet but dim to homicidal) for no apparent reason. I think de B wanted to make a point about ideology warping character but the transfo..."

Liz, I appreciate the interpretation but think that your instructor was stretching it. If de Bernieres in fact did this as a literary device, it was a clumsy one. My guess is that the interpretation you posted was the result of an overly zealous instructor trying to make lemonade.

JMHO, of course...


message 16: by Liz (new)

Liz Milner "instructor?!"

Pat wrote: "Liz wrote: "Also,a key character does a drastic personality change (from sweet but dim to homicidal) for no apparent reason. I think de B wanted to make a point about ideology warping character but..."

Pat wrote: "Liz wrote: "Also,a key character does a drastic personality change (from sweet but dim to homicidal) for no apparent reason. I think de B wanted to make a point about ideology warping character but..."

Romeenamarie wrote: "i studied this book for lit alevel and i agree that the second half of the book is definitely less beautiful and prose like. HOWEVER this is a major point and technique of the book. the second half..."


message 17: by Pat (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pat Sorry... that comment was intended for Romeenamarie. Deep breaths, Liz.


MomtoKippy I am afraid to keep reading now. I have read only about 30 pages and the writing is fantastic!


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