Captain Corelli's Mandolin is set in the early days of the second world war, before Benito Mussolini invaded Greece. Dr Iannis practices medicine on the island of Cephalonia, accompanied by his daughter, Pelagia, to whom he imparts much of his healing art. Even when the Italians do invade, life isn't so bad--at first anyway. The officer in command of the Italian garrison is the cultured Captain Antonio Corelli, who responds to a Nazi greeting of "Heil Hitler" with his own "Heil Puccini", and whose most precious possession is his mandolin. It isn't long before Corelli and Pelagia are involved in a heated affair--despite her engagement to a young fisherman, Mandras, who has gone off to join Greek partisans. Love is complicated enough in wartime, even when the lovers are on the same side. And for Corelli and Pelagia, it becomes increasingly difficult to negotiate the minefield of allegiances, both personal and political, as all around them atrocities mount, former friends become enemies and the ugliness of war infects everyone it touches.
Rating:9 out of 10
Source: Library at the recommendation of a librarian
For a book that started off so slowly, I cannot believe how much I was taken with this book by the time I got to the last page. I wish I could write something profound and insightful, but I know that my limited time will make my review have a cliche flavor. I finished the book over a month ago and while I still have a general positive experience about the book, I know that I have forgotten a lot of specifics.
By completely drawing me into the story of Pelagia, I learned so much about history, feminism, and love. One of my favorite parts of the book is the evolution of Pelagia. Her relationship with her father instills in her a thirst for knowledge and propels her to become a doctor. The irritation she feels with her father for being so unconventional is part of their rich relationship.
She falls in love twice and each experience is shaped by her world view. The first time she falls in love with Mandras; her relationship is marked by youth and propelled by lust. After they begin corresponding, she realizes that they may not be as good of a match as she originally believed. As a person who fell in love FOR REAL late in life, I was cheering as Pelagia found Corelli. As they get to know each other, we find Pelagia more confident in who she is and who she wants to become. I loved the exchanges that were filled with wit and banter. I was also struck by the steps Pelagia took to protect herself from potentially having an unplanned pregnancy. One of my favorite quotes from the book is from a conversation Pelagia has with her father about love:
Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement...Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. pg 281
I love the image of entwined roots!
In addition to the personal story, I also learned more about the history of the second world war. I did not know a lot about how Greece was involved. As Pelagia ages and finds her way in changing society, we see how her community is evolving.
Finally, the beautiful imagery of the island made me long to visit Greece again. Maybe I can convince Partner to take a vacation soon.
I am counting the book for the following challenges:
- Orbis Terrarum: The author was born in London, England
- World Party Reading Challenge: The book takes place in Greece which was the party destination for December. I am late to the party, but at least I came!
- What's in a Name Three: The book title contains the word Mandolin which fulfills the music term category.
- 2011 Global Reading Challenge:The book took place in Greece which is part of Europe.