Every once in a while a book comes along that really stands out, one that really captures the hearts and minds of people everywhere. Now I’m not saying most books don’t do this, in fact most do, but there are some that just shine with brilliance. One of these books is Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
The book is mostly set during the Italian Occupation of Cephallonia during the Second World War and revolves around an Italian Captain named Antonio Corelli who falls in love with Pelegia, the daughter of Dr Iannis. The book centres around several themes: War, Love, Music, History all of which play a part in the love triangle between Pelegia, Corelli and Mandras (Pelagia’s fiance).
This was an excellent book. I found the writing style to flow very naturally, portraying the island in a descriptive way and therefore sharing a small portion of Greece’s beauty with the reader. I loved the way Bernières slips in his own ideas and beliefs without you noticing. His hatred for communism and fascism really comes across quite strong once you sit back and think about it. He takes a character that he built up a degree of likability around and then exposed him to communism and war, by doing so he turns a good guy into a bad guy, likability turns to hatred. I love how Bernières says a great deal about war through the book and yet never looses the reader’s interest. Remember all those environmental films that came out around the 80’s and 90’s? Like Ferngully? Remember how badly they conveyed their message? This book does it brilliantly, with all the strength of All quiet on the Western Front but with the subtlety that gives the book a wider degree of interesting plot points which in turn keep the reader interested. It is however, fair to say that all plot points are connected to war and how damaging it is. We are introduced to Cephallonia as a beautiful island, peaceful and untouched. When we leave it though it is a completely different place. The characters are some of the most likable and wonderful that I have ever come across. Pelagia and Corelli’s love story is written so well that you really become invested in the future of these two characters. Mandras not only acts as an excellent example of the corrupting nature of radical political philosophies, but also as a wonderful, memorable character who switches between a charming boy to a violent bloated man. Carlo’s struggle is one hell of a moving plot point. I was reading it with friends at Sixth Form and we found ourselves so invested in the happiness of these characters that we desperately clung to some faint hope of happiness for him. I wont reveal too much about what happens to Carlo but it provided a moment equal in momentum to that of Dobby’s death in Harry Potter…Okay so you probably guessed that Carlo died…Well there’s far more to it which I WILL NOT be revealing! The way Bernières conveys the idea that good and evil is not black and white is done exquisitely. The Italians are an occupying force and so are supposed to be the villains, hell one line reads something like “He is the enemy, it is our duty to hate him”. The Germans are mostly villains but there is one character with redeeming qualities, although these aren’t really expanded on and he remains a villain of sorts, albeit a complex one. Once again Mandras is a perfect example of this.
I do however have one point which I would like to raise is the last few lines where Pelegia and Corelli pass a moped with three girls. Is it a simile? A reference to a previous event? Forgive me I may be missing the obvious here but I felt that as I didn’t fully understand the meaning behind it that the ending seemed rather abrupt. Is this a criticism? No, chances are it is my own foolishness for not seeing the obvious. Nevertheless if you do have an answer to my question I encourage you to tell me! I found Captain Corelli’s Mandolin to be a deeply moving book. I found myself becoming invested in these character and I believe that Bernières message about war came across very well. It is a deep book which I could potentially write an essay on if I choose to, there’s simply so much there! I highly recommend this beautiful book to any and all who need to be taken to a beautiful place and taught something vastly important along the way.
A masterpiece. I loved it and found myself wanting to find and meet these characters after I had finished! A must read.