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Corelli's Mandolin
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Archive 08-19 BR & Challenges > Captain Corelli's Mandolin buddy read

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Jennifer W | 2175 comments Irene and I are going to start another buddy read, this time Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières. We'll probably start reading and discussing the week of April 15th. We're pretty flexible about reading pace. Hope some others join us!

Jennifer W | 2175 comments Anyone else interested i joining us?

I read chapter 1 last night, made me chuckle.

Irene | 3978 comments I will start tonight. I was planning to start last night, but had to finish my murder mystery. LOL, had to know how it ended.

Jennifer W | 2175 comments Lol, hey, I get that!

If I get a chance, I might read another chapter or 2, they're pretty short.

Irene | 3978 comments Go ahead and read. I should get plenty of time to read tonight.

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I got through chapter 2 last night, it was longer than I thought and I was tired...

I found the bombast of Mussolini believable, but I don't know how much of what he said and how he said it is true to history. I'm more more aware of Hitler and his personality/ambitions in WWII than Mussolini.

Irene | 3978 comments I read through chapter 6 last night. I agree, there are some very humorous passages, such as chapter 1 and even chapter 2. Mussolini is portrayed as ridiculous. We get a similar portrayal of a Greek leader, but I don't know my modern Greek history to recognize his voice. I don't know if chapter 2 was supposed to reflect Mussolini accurately or be a caricature of a dictator. I was surprised when we moved from the obvious humor in the first 2 chapters to some poignant bits. I am curious where this novel is going. We are being introduced to something new each chapter. Nothing is holding together yet.

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I was surprised to encounter humor. I saw the movie years ago and don't remember it being funny. But it's been so long, that literally, all I remember is Nicholas Cage sitting around a fire playing a mandolin...

Irene | 3978 comments I did not even know there was a movie of this, but I am not surprised. It is rather a classic.

Jennifer W | 2175 comments Yeah, I think it came out in the late 90s or early 00s. I've heard it wasn't a great adaptation, so I don't think we're missing out!

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I read through chapter 5 last night. I found the Prime Minister Maxata (?) to be more reasonable than Mussolini. Again, not sure if that's reality or not. It does seem to be a lot of fairly unrelated people, I'm interested to see it start coming together.

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I read through chapter 9 last night. It is starting to come together a bit more, but I'm unsure about the homosexual soldier, how he fits in. I think he might be my favorite character so far. I feel like Mandras is kinda pathetic. That might be strong, he just seems very immature. How old is he?

Irene | 3978 comments I read through chapter 10. I am surprised how I am being pulled into each chapter despite how they are only loosely connected. I am also impressed how the author can move us from such humorous scenes of village life to such poignant reflections of individuals. I am wondering how the soldier's story will come together with the villagers and how the political figures will play into this local community.

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I agree! It's much more engaging and involved than our last book...

Irene | 3978 comments I read through chapter 15 last evening. Those with some authority, from Mossulini to the local parish priest are all coming off as ludicrous. The village folk are not exactly coming off as stellar figures, but their drunkenness or arrogance or petty obsessions come across as quaint, not dangerous. I have never read anything about Greece in WWII. This will be a new angle for me.

Jennifer W | 2175 comments Between busy Easter weekend and a headache (the two may be linked... ha!) I was only able to read through chapter 12. I hope to have some reading time today.

That festival was odd... For some reason, I was under the impression that the island was tiny, like you could walk across it, but it's big enough to have an institution? I assume the people are Greek Orthodox, which is also something I know next to nothing about. I also don't know anything about Greece in WWII. So on all accounts, this book is my introduction to many things!

I have to say, that I am loving that the tone changes with each chapter. Every character has a distinct voice, and there's already been a lot of characters!

Irene | 3978 comments I had a very quiet Easter Sunday, so I got time to read quite a bit. I finished chapter 30. This book is addictive. I want to keep reading. Yes, these villagers are Greek Orthodox. The priest drinking bottles of wine behind the screen of icons, then peeing into the bottles was rather funny. I love the way this village seems to make allowances for the exentricities of one another without condoning the behavior. The way they respond to the priest is a great example of that. I also appreciate the bouncing back and forth between the Italian soldier and the Greek villagers. Despite the fact that these are enemies, the author makes sure that both are humanized. It is not the soldiers or the citizens that are guilty of the horror of war, but the idiots in power.

message 18: by Jennifer W (last edited Apr 22, 2019 06:34AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jennifer W | 2175 comments Yeah, the peeing scene was pretty funny!

I agree, the people are very human. I was troubled that my favorite character was sent on a suicide mission for the sake of starting a war.

It is addicting! I have it here with me at work and keep sneaking glances to my bag... ha. :)

Irene | 3978 comments That suicide mission was a powerful chapter as it was a turning point from a rah rah attitude of commerodery among soldiers to the realization that each person is expendable and that one's commanding officer does not have your best interests in mind. I left that chapter feeling how the narrator had been broken in some critical and irrepreable way.

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I'm partway through chapter 17, where the Italians are freezing and losing battles. I'm more than a little apprehensive about finishing the chapter because I think he's going to be killed... But I also need to know what happens!! I'll update later!

Irene | 3978 comments I did not read any further last night so that we could catch up to each other.

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I'm through chapter 20. I'm glad Carlo didn't die, but Francisco's death was sad. Though I don't get how no one else bothred him for the hours that he lingered.

Irene | 3978 comments Yes, it was sad and I did not see it coming. I thought the author treated their relationship with such sensitivity. I read a few more chapters last night. I can't stay away. This is one book I don't want to end.

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I was also surprised at Mandras' return. At first, I thought it was somehow Carlo that stumbled into Pelagia's house. I'm surprised that it was Mandras because he's supposed to be off fighting when Captain Corelli shows up...??

I don't blame you for continuing to read, I really want to keep going, too, but you know... work, sleep, those things....

Irene | 3978 comments Mandras is becoming a more and more interesting character as I continue to read. I hope this is not a spoiler, but..... Mandras is only home for a short recovery. As soon as he gets strong enough, he starts to think about returning to war.

I know, it stinks that life has to get in the way of a good book.

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I haven't gotten that far, but that makes sense. I knew he had to be out of the picture for a love triangle to spring up.

I'm on the lookout for a job that will let me read books and watch baseball and get paid for it! ;) Let me know if you hear of such a thing! lol Nap time would be a perk, but not a necessity!

Irene | 3978 comments Can't you get the nap in between the innings on the baseball you are viewing? LOL. Can you tell I am not a baseball fan?

Jennifer W | 2175 comments Lol, baseball is conducive to napping. Even for a fan!

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I only managed to read through 22 last night. I don't get how a slow day at work can make me so tired...

Mandras' internal dialogue was interesting. He is a more complicated person than I originally gave him credit for. I liked his mom, too. I like that Pelagia and she had bonded, even though his mom is an outsider.

Irene | 3978 comments Mandras is undergoing the most profound change so far. We first saw a young man who, despite earning a living, was more of a boy than a mature man. But, the war is changing him; he is losing his playfulness, his joy in life. He seems the most broken. Pelagia does not seem to be growing up. Despite her obvious intelligence, her ability to respond to medical needs, even her ability to attend to Madras' wounds, there is something that refuses to acknowledge difficult realities. In a sense, she seems a bit like this community. They are living through one of the most brutal wars of human history, an enemy is invading their country, food is scarce, yet they all seem to be living much as they did prior to the war. Other than their diet, I don't see much change in these people. And I see something similar in Pelagia. She fell in love with Madras because he made her laugh. So, when he is gone and there are no letters to make her feel warm and fuzzy, she loses interest. And, when he comes back broken in spirit, she knows that she does not love him. As I watch her developing relationship with Corelli, I again see her attracted to a man that makes her laugh, which is a bit superficial. It makes sense for a young girl in puppy love, but does not speak of maturity.

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I can't remember what chapter I'm up to, Corelli has just moved in with Pelagia. I don't know what to think of Mandras. I agree that he has been profoundly changed. I can't decide what to make of his "illness". Is it PTSD? Or is he being stubborn? He develops these dramatic, almost hystrionic, symptoms, but when he can drink and party, he's suddenly back to normal. I also found myself thinking "what do they expect?" to the both of them. Mandras has seen and done horrible things that Pelagia can't even imagine, meanwhile, she hasn't heard a word from him and started to move on.

I get the sense that the island is so far removed, even in normal times, from the rest of the world, that the war probably doesn't seem real to them. Maybe? I also think that the island has been in so many different hands that it's just another invading force. According to the doctor, the Brits, Italians, Turks, and others have come and gone, what's another army on the shores?

Irene | 3978 comments I am thinking that Mandras has some form of PTSD. Of course, when this was written, people did not have a psychological/medical understanding of the illness. But, the author does capture the mood swings, the depression, the self-doubt and the anger associated with PTSD.

You are right that the villagers do seem to have a fatalistic approach to conquering armies. There is a sense that we have lived through this before and we will live through it again. Of course, I could also see how some would respond to an invading army with a level of PTSD, a terror of reliving the atrosities of the past. But, we don't see this.

Irene | 3978 comments I am up to chapter 55. I feel like I have a bit of whiplash. One moment I am laughing at the lunacy and stupidity of military powers and the next I am having my heart broken. I know that this book mentions that the people on this island are experiencing hunger and hardships because of the occupation, but I don't really feel it. There is a sense that the war is a nutral presence, they might resent the Italian soldiers but they are not so bad, they might resent the deprivations of the war, but they are not so bad.

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I'm up to chapter 30, but I agree, there is the constant back and forth of humor and lightheartedness juxtaposed with the horrors of war. Mandras killing the old man felt particularlt brutal to me. I agree, outside of the fighting chapters, the war feels far away.

Irene | 3978 comments That sceen was critical in my understanding of Mandras. Usually we get author's telling us of the horrors of war and the way those horrors break people. But here we see that it is not simply the horrors of war that break people. Mandras is negatively transformed by his war experience and it happened during his first tour of duty and is being fueled by his time with this communist group. He is no longer the boy who delighted in the dolphins and is ready to swing from a tree to make his girlfriend laugh. He has lost his soul (if I can use that language). We don't know what caused it, was it what he saw and suffered in his first tour of duty? was it the revoltion he saw in the eyes of those when he came home? was it the lost of the love of Pelagia? At what point could he have been turned back to the kind kid who left home? Or did war bring out his basic nature? Meanwhile, the Italians occupying the army, especially Corelli, retain their humanity and integrity. They are also fed a pack of lies by those in power, also experience the horrors of war, also engage in behaviors such as frequenting prostitutes, that they might not have done at home. But the core of who they are does not alter. We will see more of the Germans and the various Greek forces as the war continues and we will be told of more war atrocities. I wonder if our author is telling us that the basic Italian nature is simply better than the basic German or Greek nature.

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I'm part way through the propaganda pamphlet chapter. It's an odd thing. At first I thought it was pro Mussolini, but it obviously isn't. It's also quite long to be a "pamphlet".

I also read the chapter where Hector was being berated by his commanding officer for terrorizing the locals etc. It made me sick to my stomach. I don't get why he isn't just shut down? I don't think it would stop him, but there's a part of me that is revolted that he is allowed to carry on under some official capacity.

I would imagine all the degradations that Mandras suffered being on the front and then returning home has turned him into who he is now. I don't think there was this underlying brutality before the war, but now that the genie is out of the bottle, will he be able to go back to the kind soul he was before? If he makes it out alive, will he be able to return to the island and live out his days? I have a hard time seeing it.

I don't entirely buy Corelli, either. Not that I think he's a bad guy, I just don't buy him as a soldier and an occupier. How did he make Captain if he's such a softy? I don't know if we are supposed to apply him and his troops to all Italians. I think it would have been very easy to make him a jerk, but I think we're supposed to like him so that we can see how Pelagia likes him. If he was a typical invader, we would chalk up her affection to Stockholm Syndrome or something.

Irene | 3978 comments I am up to chapter 65. I agree that Corelli has some deep goodness or integrity that we usually don't associate with military leadership. But, the Italians are consistently portrayed as better or more moral soldiers than the Germans or the Communists. This is not a spoiler, even though it comes from a chapter I read last night. After the Germans become a more prevalent presence on the island, it is observed that the Italians, although they stole and were guilty of other crimes, showed remorse after the deed; they knew that what they did was wrong. The Germans, on the other hand, attack civilians, destroy property and take whatever they want with so sign of remorse. Similar comments are made of the Greek Communists. The aughor, with his comments about Italian leaders, makes them out to be inept but not savages. The Germans are portrayed as evil incarnate. It makes me wonder how Europe ever reconciled after the war.

Jennifer W | 2175 comments It's something I often see when I read WWII fiction. Usually it's a Nazi (but as noted, I haven't really read about the Italian side of things) who has a heart of gold despite everything they've been trained and exposed to. Not that every person in WWII was a monster, but I'd be shocked if there were as many real life Nazis who had hearts of gold as all the ones I've read about...

I get it, though, it would be brutal to write, and read, about everyone involved being pure evil.

Along those lines, I just got a hold notice from the library for At the Wolf's Table. Ugh! I thought it would take over a month for that to come in with people ahead of me! The library has no sense of timing... lol.

Irene | 3978 comments I think this book makes out the Germans to be pretty close to pure evil and the Greek Communists pretty close to that. I think it makes the Italians out to be dupes. And the British come across as willfully ignorant. No Americans. I think the author is connecting the philosophy fed to each group with their level of brutality. The orders handed down to the Italian forces change from moment to moment, one order contradicting the next. So, there is no overarching world view or philosophy by which they are being indoctrinated. The Nazis and the Communists on the other hand actively brainwash their soldiers.

Irene | 3978 comments I finished last night. I loved this one. I am surprised that its GR rating is only 3.9 stars.

As for my comments about how the Germans, Italians, etc are portrayed, I was reading the author notes at the end. Hesays there that the Italians committed their share of atrosities in the war, that the Greek Communists have often been spoken of as misguided by their fellow Greeks, but with the Communists out of power, it is time to realize that they were as guilty of abominitable behavior as any of the others. So, you were right, it was just this group of Italians that were supposed to be kindly.

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I'm jealous you're finished. On the other hand, I get to keep enjoying this one for a while longer!

I only read another chapter or so last night. I got caught up in a show about the rock band Queen and then it was late. I haven't really encountered the Germans, but the communists are just bad guys. And I don't like how Mandras just eats it up.

Irene | 3978 comments I am jealous that you get to continue to live with these characters a bit longer.

Jennifer W | 2175 comments Read a few more chapters. I find it interesting that Carlo and the Doctor would work together to print the pamphlet... I could see the doctor doing it, but Carlo seems like a huge risk to him.

Irene | 3978 comments Yes, it was a risk for both of them, but it gave us new insights into these men. We had not seen that side of Carlo prior, a man who would protest unjust political power. And it also gave us a sense of who was paying attention to and understood the injustices of those in power.

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I kind of miss Carlo and some of the other characters. I've been with Corelli and Pelagia for several chapters now. I just read about Corelli blowing up the mine. My favorite part though was that, in all the excitement, they forgot about the snails! I love how this author keeps reminding us of the humor to be found in everyday life, even in war.

Irene | 3978 comments I thought that chapter with the blowing up of that mine was so funny until the end. It is ludicrous, the arrogant captain insisting that he can detonate it, the people covered in dirt, the soldier's snarky attempt to warn Corelli of his folly. It was like something out of a slapstick comedy. And, then the soldier is decapitated. Suddenly a comedy becomes a tragedy, no less so because we don't know this soldier. And yet, for the reader, as for the villagers, it is not so tragic because it happened to a man no one knew. There are all sorts of these sceens in this book when our own moral compass is challenged.

Jennifer W | 2175 comments Exactly. And the irony that the one to die was not only the one who warned of the dangers, but also probably the only one experienced enoigh to blow up the mine safely.

Irene | 3978 comments All because of Corelli's huberous. So we get the snarky lampooning of Mussolini and the Greek leader ridiculing their huberous and the tragic lives lost as a result in this terrible war. Now we see it on a small scale and by a man we had come to like. It is as if the author is telling the reader that there is a bit of the arrogant, dangerous person in each of those who rise to authority, at least in the military.

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I think it's about to get intense. Though I can't quite follow the history. The Allies have invaded Italy. The Greeks are upset because they've been occupied and fighting back? Was I following that?

Jennifer W | 2175 comments Oh, Carlo! I knew I liked you!

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