K.D. Absolutely's Reviews > Corelli's Mandolin

Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières
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Aug 15, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: 1001-core, 501
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books; 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010 versions)
Read from July 03 to 07, 2010 — I own a copy , read count: 1

Stunning. Mesmerizing. Remarkable. Beautiful, beautiful love story. I just scanned the 121 books that I've already read belonging to 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and there seem to be not too many books that could be considered as predominantly love stories. There is Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice but we all knew about it even before actually reading the book so there was no element of surprise. There is Haruki Murakami's Sputnik Sweetheart but it has fantasy interwoven in the story like people disappearing in trees, people being transformed while riding a ferris wheel, etc. so it is not a straightforward pure honest love story. Also Sputnik fell out from the list in its 2010 version.

Set in the beautiful island of Cephallonia (now Kefalonia) in Greece during World War II, Louis de Bernieres' (British, born 1954) Captain Corelli's Mandolin, first published in 1993, sizzles with love, music and honesty. Love here is not just the usual erotic love between a man and a woman. The main protagonist, the beautiful Pelagia is in love with the handsome gentleman, Mandras who joins the Greek guerilla. Then Pelagia meets the mandolin-playing Italian captain, Corelli and falls love for him too. Theirs is a forbidden love since Pelagia is still betrothed to Mandras and Corelli is an Italian whose country is at war with Greece and the Allies. Although living in the same house, they choose not to make love so as not to complicate the situation. When they say their dreams they are always prefixed with "After the war...". Love so painfully forbidden yet so pure and honest. Right love in a wrong place and time.

The other love is fatherly love between Pelagia and her doctor-father, Dr. Iannis. Theirs is a nurturing love based on respect and trust. There is a scene where Dr. Iannis is telling Pelagia that he sees the love blossoming between Pelagia and Corelli. He does not condone it. He just gives the consequences of continuing that love. Pelagia takes it maturely. When the time comes that my own daughter falls in love with a man, I hope I'll have the same fortitude and maturity that Dr. Iannis has in that scene. Powerful.

The last significant love that this novel includes is the homosexual heroic love that Carlo, one of the Greek soldiers, has to his fellow but subordinate soldier, Francesco. Carlo keeps his love within himself (they are in the Army so that kind of love is taboo). When the latter dies, Carlo is devastated because he failed to save him. Then Carlo meets Corelli who is his superior. This time he shields his body that spared Corelli's life during the Aqui Massacre (September 1943) when German soldiers killed by open fire 400,000+ Italian soldiers. This was the time when Germany was about to lose the war to Allies and they went into killing sprees everywhere in Europe. That historical scene is depicted in details in this book that you will surely feel numbed to read another gigantic monstrosity the Germans did during WWII.

I spent 4 days reading this 436-page book. It's an easy read and I could have normally finished this in 2-3 days but Bernieres' prose is so delectable that I decided to savor each word closing the book every now and then and imagine myself in that island, hearing the music of mandolin and seeing the face of the sumptuous Penelope Cruz (who played the role of Pelagia in the 2001 film based on this book).

I have the pirated copy of that film. Many years ago, when I tried viewing it, I stopped after 5-10 minutes. It was boring. Now that I've read and liked the book, I should dig my cabinets and give it another chance. I just think that the balding Nicholas Cage was a miscast as Corelli. BTW, De Bernières strongly disapproved of the film version, commenting, "It would be impossible for a parent to be happy about its baby's ears being put on backwards." He does however state that it has redeeming qualities, and particularly likes the soundtrack.

My lawyer-brother says that the books belonging to 501 Must Read Books (yes that's another list and this book is in there too) are those that are controversial and not necessarily well-written. After this book's publication in 1993, the island of Kefalonia became one of the island tourist destinations in Greece. Also, obviously, this is well-written and as it also landed #19 (among 200 listed) in Big Read, the 2004 survey done in UK where people voted for their favorite novels.

Maybe writing about Alabat island, where I grew up, in Quezon will not be a bad idea. Oh maybe someday.

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Reading Progress

07/03/2010 page 34
8.0%
07/04/2010 page 158
36.0% "I'm enjoying every page of it!" 1 comment
07/05/2010 page 360
83.0% "Wow! This is one love story in 1001 that really gets me!" 4 comments
08/08/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-30 of 30) (30 new)

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message 1: by Apokripos (new) - added it

Apokripos Such a delectable review! Ahaha! :D

Pardon me for skipping some parts that I think have a potential spoiler! But still it's good review, so I liked it.


K.D. Absolutely Yes, there are some spoilers but they are all in the early parts of the story. I normally don't include the climax and ending of the story in my reviews. What I include are normally those that you will read in the book's blurbs anyway.


message 3: by Sheryl (new) - added it

Sheryl At my cousin's wedding, the best friend of the bride quoted something from this book. A snippet of it is... "Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away." I was truly captured by the quotation and thought of reading it sometime. Your review seconded the thought. :D


K.D. Absolutely Frustratedangel wrote: "At my cousin's wedding, the best friend of the bride quoted something from this book. A snippet of it is... "Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away." I was truly captur..."

Yes, there are many love-inspired quotations in the books. They are just too many to list them down. But this book is one of the best love stories I've read so far.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

What a review! I need to read this to fall in love again especially when love barometer runs low. I agree "love is what is left when all else burns away"


message 6: by Jorge Richard (new)

Jorge Richard great review! i'll grab a copy as soon as possible! thanks!


K.D. Absolutely Ako rin, nagulat din ako. By accident ko lang sinimulan yan. Naghihintay ako sa mag-ina ko sa St. Luke's eh natapos ko na ang Unwind. So punta ako sa Booksale (tapat ng Starbucks sa E. Rod). Ito lang yong 1001 book doon. Kahit meron na ako, binili ko. P45 lang naman. Sinumbong pa ako ng daughter ko sa wife ko. ha ha ha


K.D. Absolutely Jorge Richard wrote: "great review! i'll grab a copy as soon as possible! thanks!"

Only if you don't find love stories mushy, Jorge. I don't really go for love stories. It so happened that this is a 1001 Book so I have no choice. But really it is surprisingly good.


K.D. Absolutely rosesamongthorns wrote: "What a review! I need to read this to fall in love again especially when love barometer runs low. I agree "love is what is left when all else burns away""

Yes, Rose. BTW, I will read the 2nd book of Invisible Wall hopefully next week. Ignore my review when you see it. Ha ha ha


message 10: by Sheryl (new) - added it

Sheryl I hope I stumble upon a copy of the book in booksale. =)


message 11: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Frustratedangel wrote: "I hope I stumble upon a copy of the book in booksale. =)"

I have 2 copies. I will give you one during the meet-up. But I have been seeing this in almost all BS outlets even up to now.


Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly Don't forget to mention me in the Alabat book. I was the honeypot of unrequited love during my heyday...


message 13: by Sheryl (new) - added it

Sheryl K.D. wrote: "Frustratedangel wrote: "I hope I stumble upon a copy of the book in booksale. =)"

I have 2 copies. I will give you one during the meet-up. But I have been seeing this in almost all BS outlets even..."


Really? Wow! Thanks! *beams with delight* You're too nice! :D


message 14: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Joselito wrote: "Don't forget to mention me in the Alabat book. I was the honeypot of unrequited love during my heyday..."

Yes I will. Unrequited ba yon? Di ba you met some years after? Unrequited pa rin?


message 15: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Frustratedangel wrote: "K.D. wrote: "Frustratedangel wrote: "I hope I stumble upon a copy of the book in booksale. =)"

I have 2 copies. I will give you one during the meet-up. But I have been seeing this in almost all BS..."


What will I do with an extra copy? Show up in Meet-Up 2 and you'll get it. Otherwise, it will be a prize for one of the games! ha ha ha


Christine I found this book challenging at the start and had to delay reading it. But after picking it up again, I enjoyed it so much! The richness, nuances, humor and wit... Worth every one of the 400++ pages.


message 17: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Thanks, Christine.

Lesson that I've learned recently: don't be afraid of thick books. Sometimes, the long ones make more sense because the author was able to fully develop his/her characters. :)


message 18: by Md (new) - rated it 5 stars

Md Estigoy I will agree that the film version couldn't be any better than the novel itself but I will have to agree also about the soundtrack. Pelagia's Song for one is excellent.
Captain Corelli's Mandolin is one of my most favorite books! :)


message 19: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely M, I agree. This book is one of those under-appreciated modern fiction. Very few of my friends have read this. I have been pushing my friends to read this to no avail.


message 20: by Roberts324 (new)

Roberts324 The figure of 400,000 Italian killed in the Acqui Massacre (September 1943) is wrong. See for instance http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_... (World War II).


message 21: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Roberts324 wrote: "The figure of 400,000 Italian killed in the Acqui Massacre (September 1943) is wrong. See for instance http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_... (World War II)."

Thanks, Robert.


Elizabeth Sulzby I love this book and have read it (print) twice and am now listening to the unabridged audio book version for the 5th time. I do hope you did not see the movie--it is a desecration, trite and silly. It totally ruins the lifelong love story of Corelli and Pelagia. I like the way you have captured the many loves. I just got back from an archeological tour of Crete and am now able to put some flesh on more of the historical parts. (The movie does have some beautiful scenery.)


message 23: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Elizabeth wrote: "I love this book and have read it (print) twice and am now listening to the unabridged audio book version for the 5th time. I do hope you did not see the movie--it is a desecration, trite and sill..."

Reading your comment made me reread my review. Reading my review made me want to reread the book haha!


Elizabeth Sulzby That is great. But so many people on goodreads did NOT like it!


message 25: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Elizabeth wrote: "That is great. But so many people on goodreads did NOT like it!"

And that I cannot understand.


message 26: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely K.D. wrote: "Elizabeth wrote: "That is great. But so many people on goodreads did NOT like it!"

And that I cannot understand."


Me too. This is a great novel.


Elizabeth Sulzby K.D., have you read his Birds With Wings? It is also great.


message 28: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Elizabeth wrote: "K.D., have you read his Birds With Wings? It is also great."

Thanks, Elizabeth. I'll check that out.


message 29: by Sonia (new)

Sonia Gomes KD. it is absolutely amazing


Cecily Lovely review, and I like the fact you've mentioned the love between Pelagia and her father. That relationship utterly charmed me.


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