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Corelli's Mandolin: A Novel Paperback – August 29, 1995

4.4 out of 5 stars 543 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

British author Louis de Bernières is well known for his forays into magical realism in such novels as The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts, Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord, and The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman. Here he keeps it to a minimum, though certainly the secondary characters with whom he populates his island--the drunken priest, the strongman, the fisherman who swims with dolphins--would be at home in any of his wildly imaginative Latin American fictions. Instead, de Bernières seems interested in dissecting the nature of history as he tells his ever-darkening tale from many different perspectives. Corelli's Mandolin works on many levels, as a love story, a war story, and a deconstruction of just what determines the facts that make it into the history books. --Alix Wilber

From Publishers Weekly

De Bernieres mixes history and fantasy in this love story set on an idyllic Greek island torn apart by Nazi occupation.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 437 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (August 29, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067976397X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679763970
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (543 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
It wasn't because it was raining, it wasn't that I had nothing else to do, it wasn't because I had just split up with a boyfriend, my TV was working, and yet I sat in for the whole of this weekend in absolute emotional turmoil. All because of Captain Corelli's Mandolin. The book takes you through the bumpy ride of a small island's history. Together with the characters we go through war from all angles, occupation, earthquakes and most traumatically losing loved ones. Depressing as that may sound to some of you, Bernières is one of only a handful of authors who has the gifted touch of making his readers laugh out loud. I often found myself having to read through tear filled eyes, only to be laughing at the same time because Bernières has seen fit to enhance heart rendering stories with some true life observations (I couldn't possibly give an example as it might spoil the book- just trust me, it's funny). It is a book that deals with every type of love; between man and country, father and daughter, man and woman, pine marten and mice. It is so easy to identify with that I'm sure I was blushing, as if he had read my thoughts. It truely is a compelling read, so full of little gems that you might want to keep pen and paper to hand, as well as some tissues for the snivelly bits. The structure of the book is such that it may take a little while to get used to ( lots of characters take a chapter each and we eavesdrop in on their mind workings.). But after a short while it comes together and as a reader I feel we are left with the perfect situation- no, one omniscient narrator, yet the ability to see the entire picture. It's a fabulous read. Make sure you've got nothing planned for the weekend!
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Format: Paperback
On the island, I have heard that Louis desBernieres only actually spent a few days here doing research. I found this so hard to believe.
Through his words and the pictures he paints in the mind, you are transported to this most wonderful place. I felt Mandras' and Corelli's pain as they endured horrific events as the war unfolds. I dislike war novels of any kind, but this work brings the human element into play in a way that it would be as though your brother or a friend were at war -- you would hang on every word for information.
The love story is brilliant -- until the very end. The ending is too quickly "tacked on" and detracts significantly from the excellent quality of the writing. It is also one of those "too good to be true" endings. However, put this aside and create your own ending, because the rest of the work -- the language, the plot, characterizations, are so masterfully crafted that my disappointment at the ending was tempered by the memories of these great characters.
Louis desBernieres created a moving, wonderful book out of an obscure topic with regard to WWII, very few people out there are aware of the war atrocities committed in Greece.
I am most worried that once the film is released, that our family's island paradise will be inundated with tourists! Cephallonia is truly one of the most unusually different, most hauntingly beautiful and least visited Greek islands. I would love it if it were always so, but it is inevitable that because of this book, there will be a great interest garnered in visiting. If you do manage to make it over here, enjoy -- but respect the islanders and the environment, please (especially the beaches, which are unparalleled in Greece)!
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Format: Paperback
"Corelli's Mandolin" came highly recommended by two friends whose sophisticated taste in fiction I trust. I won't comment on the plot, as the synopses above do that very well. Mr. de Bernieres is an exceptional prose stylist, who writes beautiful, elegant sentences, provides descriptions of such clarity as to make your inner eye need sunglasses, and has a twisted comic sense that reminds me of Mark Helprin and John Irving. The first 100 pages are slow going, yet still very involving, as you are introduced to the cast of characters, the island of Cephallonia, and the events leading up to the Italian occupation of the island. The pace picks up once Captain Corelli arrives on the scene and begins his beguiling seduction of Pelagia. But I must caution potential readers: this novel is dense with information, multiple narrative viewpoints, satire, history, an odd assortment of characters, and the narrator's discursive approach. I did not find this book to be a "breezy" or fast read. This is not a plot-driven novel or a page-turner by any means. If you like similar books and think the premise sounds interesting, then prepare to settle in for a leisurely, occasionally mind-bending read. Personally, I think that Mark Helprin's "A Soldier of the Great War" is a far more successful attempt at the same type of novel. Helprin is a brilliant writer with a huge intellect who plots like a madman, writes inspired and wickedly funny dialogue, and paints word pictures that will be indelibly etched in your mind. "Soldier" is probably my favorite book of the 1990's. "Corelli's Mandolin" is excellent but it's not truly a classic. Nevertheless, I await de Bernieres' next book with anticipation.
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