Thursday, May 23, 2013

Review: CORELLI'S MANDOLIN, by Louis de Bernieres

Corelli's Mandolin, by Louis de Bernieres. Published 1994 by Vintage. Literary Fiction.

So, it took me almost a month, but I finally finished Louis de Bernieres's wonderful, wonderful Corelli's Mandolin, and now I'm sad, because I'm done reading this beautiful book.

Set on the Greek isle of Cephallonia during the Italian occupation of World War 2, Corelli's Mandolin is primarily the love story of Pelagia, a young Greek woman, and Antonio Corelli, captain of the forces occupying her island. We don't meet Corelli for a little while though, and in the mean time we get a multiple-voiced narrative about life on the island, the war in Greece and Italy and the political situation of the island. So the first 100 pages are a little slow, I'm not going to lie to you. But I bet you'll get hooked nonetheless.

What makes the book is the rich panoply of characters, starting with Pelagia, her father Iannis who is the island's doctor, her fiancé Mandras with his own sad arc, the music-loving Antonio Corelli, and his soldier and close friend Carlo. But the minor characters are just as memorable, like Mandras's mother Drosoula, a priest who loses his mind, the English soldier Bunnius who provides some comic relief, the little girl Lemoni, and even a pine marten has an important role to play. Pelagia starts off as sort of just another pretty girl but her personality fills out to become the center of the whole story. Mandras and Carlo will break your heart in different ways, and the love story between Antonio and Pelagia is something you will never forget.

But there is plenty of plot, too, plenty to keep you turning the pages and a lot to learn about Greece's role in the war. De Bernieres shows us the war in Greece from the point of view of politicians, rebels, soldiers and ordinary people. The story follows almost Pelagia's whole life and we see some post-war Greek life and the changes that come with it.

I am so glad my friend at the bookstore persuaded me to read this book. Corelli’s Mandolin is historical fiction of the old school, a sweeping story to get lost in and fall in love with. It would appeal to almost all readers of adult fiction save hardcore genre readers. I would give it to just about anybody, male or female, young or old. It totally took me by surprise. I hoped I would like it, but I didn't think I would love it this much. It's also a wonderful summer read, a book to linger over, smile over, cry over, a book that will leave its mark on your heart forever.

Rating: Are you kidding? BUY!

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.