Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres takes place on the Greek island of Cephallonia during the time of WWII. The story centers on a handful of characters, most importantly the Italian Captain Corelli, the Greek Dr. Iannis and his daughter Pelagia. Corelli is a fun-loving, musician who joined the army because it allowed him plenty of time to practice his music in between drills. He leads a group of young soldiers, known as La Scala, in song at any and every opportunity. Corelli is placed at the home of the no-nonsense Dr. Iannis and Pelagia during the Italian occupation of Greece. Despite being forced into their home, the Captain is able to befriend the doctor and falls in love with the beautiful Pelagia, who is betrothed to another. Then the war moves in, full force, and turns everything upside down.
Image by Eelke de Blouw via Flickr
This book has funny moments, horrific betrayals, and stunning acts of loyalty and heroism but at it's heart it is a beautiful love story.It was both heartbreaking and perfectly romantic. The writing is fluid and so descriptive that I could almost smell the ocean and feel the island air. I've always wanted to see Greece but I've now added the island of Cephalonnia to the list of things I'd like to see if I ever go there.I mean, just look at the picture! Who wouldn't want to go?
FYI, there is a movie with the same name based on this book and I had seen it before reading the book but they changed so much, particularly the ending that it's almost a different story. It had Nicolas Cage as Corelli and he captured the Captain's silliness but not enough for me to forgive his ridiculous attempt at an Italian accent. My husband watched part of it with me and asked if he was supposed to be Irish. (Yeah, it's that bad.) Once you get past the accent and the complete rewrite, it's not a bad movie. The mandolin music alone makes it worth watching, it's just gorgeous music.
My favorite quote from the book. It's a bit lengthy but it's a beautiful bit of advice.
"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, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don't blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being "in love", which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident."