Thursday, March 10, 2011

Corelli's Mandolin

Corelli's Mandolin written by Louis de Bernieres (1994)

A historical, world war II novel set on the island Cephallonia.  It is the story of the native Greeks and the German and Italian occupation of their island.  At least in my education, this part of the war was glossed over.  I don't recall anything about the massacre of Italian troops by the Germans in 1943.  It was interesting to me to read about other countries' involvements in the war (other than the Americans).

The main characters are:
Dr Iannis, Pelagia's father, and the unofficial island's Dr.  He spends the majority of his life trying to write the history of the island but his views and personal opinions keep sneaking into the manuscript.  In the end, Pelagia finishes it for her father.

Pelagia is not the average island girl.  She is well educated and has hopes of being a doctor someday.  The book details the two loves of her life, Mandras and Antonio Corelli.

Perhaps one of the more famous monologues from the book is Dr Iannis' attempt to describe love to his daughter.  The difference between love and lust.

Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become 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, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being in love which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.

I enjoyed this book mostly because it had the right mix of humor and tragedy.  War is hard.  It seems in times of war, people life more fully and passionately, since you never know what tomorrow will bring.  I might not re-read it as often as To Kill A Mockingbird or Brave New World, but this book is definitely going on my favorites list.

p.s. The movie was good, but I felt like it lacked the majority of the emotional ties of Pelagia to her father, Mandras and Captain Corelli.

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