December 1, 2011

Corelli's Mandoline: A Novel, Reviewed

Well folks, it was a long time coming, but I finally finished Corelli's Mandolin: A Novel, by Louis de Bernieres.

This book, let me tell you, is fabulous.

The main story follows Pelagia, a young girl living on the island of Cephallonia in Greece during the height of World War II. Early on the book she falls in love with a local fisherman, Mandras, and they are betrothed. Soon after, however, troops from Italy and Germany invade the island, and Captain Corelli (of Italy) invades Pelagia's father's house.

[side note: I am currently writing my thesis and it has become very apparent that I am now a science writer--I mean, how boring was the above description?!?]

I'm not going to divulge much more information about the plot because it twists and turns and comes back on itself and nearly everything is related, and honestly, it's one of those books you're better off being surprised by.

But oh my god let me tell you, de Bernieres is a literary genius. Though much of the story is told from Pelagia's point of view, each chapter is different and switches between characters. Often, if they are not about Pelagia, Dr. Iannis (her father) or Corelli, they are told in the first person or by letter in a different character's voice. This technique makes the novel very interesting and exciting to read. One of my favorite chapters was sort of a train-of-thought of EL DUCE (Mussolini)--absolutely hilarious and you can tell de Bernieres didn't think highly of the man (for probably all the right reasons).

I found after reading it that the book is historically accurate--which makes it all the more intriguing. Throughout the novel, Dr. Iannis is attempting to write a history of his beloved island, but continues to get frustrated as his own biases and opinions of how things went down keep sneaking into his text. Ironically, one of the Italian soldiers remarks, "I know that if we win then there will be stories about mass graves in London and vice versa". After this statement, it becomes apparent (at least to me) that the author wants the public to know what happened in Greece from all different points of view, because it's common knowledge that whoever wins the war gets to write the history books.

de Bernieres also provides a lot of commentary on different forms of government--especially communism and fascism--through his different characters. Unfortunately I don't know much about the subject, so it was difficult for me to follow, and it will be nearly impossible for me to review. BUT if you're into that sort of stuff, it's in there.

So I mentioned early on in this post that it took me a long time to read this book and that is for a couple of reasons. The first is that I have had no time lately. What with all this running and wedding planning and thesis writing, I get into bed right after dinner and fall asleep before I hit my pillow. But I have to admit that the beginning was kiiiiiiiinnnndddaaaa slooooooooow. I think if I were able read bigger chunks of it over longer time periods, I would have gotten into it, but all I could manage was a chapter or two a few times a week. And since his chapters switch characters and plot lines each time, the stories didn't really pick up until about halfway through (and it's a 400 page book here people). So honestly, I didn't get excited about picking it up until the end (although, pahleeese don't get me wrong, when I did have time to read it, I was always glad that I did because de Bernieres is an absolutely stunning writer. You feel like your eyeballs have turned into golden honey after reading what he wrote because he's that good).

But when you get to that tipping point where all the stories have momentum and the characters are built, then you'll fly through it. I would reccomend this book to anyone. It is combines multiple love stories, historical events, and political commentary into a book that will make you laugh and cry (oh my god I haven't cried so hard since the last episode of Grey's amiright?) and think. It is hands down one of the best books I have ever EVER read.

So go pick it up from your local book shop and dig in. And let me know what you think!

PS I mentioned in my last post that I read two doozies. Well obvi this was the first, and the second was the second installment of the Hunger Games titled Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I flew through it in about 13 hours, and now I'm reading the last of the trilogy, so when I'm done with the set I'll review the whole thing.

PPS Do yall know anything about florists? That's the next big "thing" on the wedding planning to-do list and I'm sorta at a loss on this one....

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