Joan's Reviews > Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières
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Mar 15, 12


Reading this novel is spending time with an author who has an exuberant zest for writing, and pours that exuberance into his characters. Set on the Greek Island of Cephallonia during WWII, when it was occupied by the Italians, the story begins as a joyful tale of forbidden love. Reluctant soldier and master mandolin player, Captain Antonio Corelli, is billeted in the humble home of the local doctor and his beautiful daughter, Pelagia. The proud Greeks are not happy to have the Italian army overrun their island paradise, but the Italians are friendly and fun, and are more interested in singing than in subjugating the locals. The war drags on, there are shortages, and suffering increases until eventually, Italy surrenders to the Allied forces and the Germans move in to occupy the island.
The Nazis are harsh and murderous; the Italian soldiers turn against their former allies, and ultimately are hideously wiped out by the German forces. Corelli is severely wounded but his life is spared due to the sacrifice of his close comrade in arms, the compassion of a local strong man who carries him back to the doctor’s home, and the doctor’s valiant surgery, using mandolin strings to stitch him up. Pelagia and her father nurse him back to health, hide him from the Nazis and eventually help him to escape from the island in a boat. She desperately hopes that one day the two will be able to reunite and marry.
Years pass. The country is embroiled in a terrible civil war. Pelagia’s jubilant youth fades into spinsterhood. She assumes Corelli has perished. She survives the ravages of war and a terrible earthquake that kills her beloved father, only to find out, as the novel comes to an end, that the cruel separation from the love of her life, that she has endured all these years, need not have been.
DeBernieres’ prose is gripping and vivid. His ability to paint pictures of love, honor, joy and life is equaled by his talent at depicting the horrific, violent misery of war. This novel is a great read.
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