Jake Mcconnell's Reviews > Corelli's Mandolin

Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières
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Aug 10, 2012

really liked it
Read from August 10 to 20, 2012

I held off on reading this one for a long time, mainly because I saw a trailer for the movie, and it looked terrible. In hindsight the movie was terrible, but that's pretty much par for the course for anything starring Nic Cage that isn't The Rock or Con Air. I eventually picked it up, though, because it was the next book on the BBC Big Read list that I hadn't read. This is one of those examples where the book is infinitely better than the movie, and is definitely worth reading.

The setting is Greece in the 1940's during World War II. Italy is about to invade, thinking that it will be a quick campaign won in a week. The Greeks offer surprisingly tenacious resistance, turning it into a bloody guerilla campaign that is only completed with the assistance of the Italians' German allies. Initially the Italian occupation force is met with much Greek antipathy, but the locals are eventually won over by the suave Captain Corelli, a man that yearns to be a musician more than a soldier. Corelli becomes infatuated with Pelagia, the local doctor's daughter, and this infatuation is eventually reciprocated although such a relationship is more or less taboo.

The Italians and the Greeks live fairly harmoniously during the term of the occupation, but Mussolini's regime eventually collapses, and the Italian occupation is replaced with a German one. The Germans are much less benevolent than their Italian counterparts, and brutalize both the native Greek population and the Italian soldiers stationed on the island, who are viewed as traitors by the German command. A genocidal campaign ensues in which very few Italians or Greeks survive. What happens to Corelli and Pelagia after? You'll have to read the book to find out.

If this were solely a love story, I'm not sure that it would be able to stand on it's own (and I think the cloying, overpowering love story is why the movie looked so terrible), but Captain Corelli's Mandolin is as much, if not more, about the atrocities of war as it is about love. The gray area between good and evil, right and wrong, is large. "Good" people are forced to do things that are normally against their moral principles. The "villains" of the novel are often showed as having human sides, struggling with decisions and often acting in opposition of their direct orders. Nothing in war is completely black and white, and de Bernieres captures this sentiment perfectly.

Don't be prejudiced by the movie. This book is definitely worth perusing.
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