Monday, 4 July 2011

Captain Corelli: My Thoughts

Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres
This book was nothing like I expected it would be, I have to say. My preconception was that it was a straightforward love story which isn't the case at all. Love is certainly a theme but there is a much bigger theme of war throughout the book and in many ways Captain Correlli and Pelagia are but minor characters. This isn't a bad thing however, it is much more than a love story and I was glad it was, although I felt the love story itself was beautiful. Overall this book was actually much better than I had anticiapted it to be!

The Story
There is a mix of true political history and then the ficticious story of characters lving through this period of history.Throughout the book there is commenty on the nature of war and of facism and communism which are portrayed as bad as each other. We are taken through the decision process in some of the leaders heads, these decisions have huge effects on the lives and deaths of the ordinary people in the novel which they failed to fully consider.

Captain Corelli is an Italian soldier posted to occupy the greek Island of Cephallonia, where a beautiful young girl Pelagia- which I have no idea how to pronounce :P- lives with her father Dr Iannis. She had been engaged to Mandras, a handsome young fisherman in her village but he goes away to fight in the war, not replying to her love letters and she falls out of love very quickly once he has left.
She and Corelli slowly fall in love, a much stronger beautiful love, but they cannot openly be together as they are on different sides of the war. Does their love survive the war and do they live happily ever after- you'll have to read the book to find out :P

There is another smaller story within this book- the story that captured my heart, which is about a character named Carlo. He experiences much inner turmoil and never felt he fitted in anywhere because of his secret- that he is gay. He joins the army and falls in love with a young soldier named Francis, only to tragically have hime die in his arms. He is then posted to Cephallonia with Correlli, falling in love with him and eventually choosing to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Any Negatives?
If I were to be really picky there were a few things I could mention that I personally didn't like about ths book. As a rule I really enjoy books where each chapter is from the viewpoint of a different character or follows a different character, I really love it when severa of the charcters have real depth, not just a few. But somehow in this case I didn't like how this it done. I felt it followed too many characters, some very briefly with only a chapter or two based on them where I would have preffered many more about them or none at all. I would have liked more chapters following Carlo but really that's just becasue he was my favourite character!

I also didn't like how obviously Pelagia and Mandris's love was purely lust based. I realise that it was meant to contrast with the much genuine ever lasting love between Pelagia and her father and Pelagia and Corelli but I thought it was far too obvious from the start that there's was a not a love that would make it and was clearly shallow, I would have liked it to perhaps appear more real.

The only part of this book I didn't enjoy was the laast few chapters. After the war had ended, Pelagias life over the next several decades is played out very quicklywith characters rapidly introduced such as her grandson or son in law, who I really don't feel are gicen the chance to develop in any way and didn't feel to me like fully fleshed out characters if that makes sense? I just felt like I was struggling to keep up with the pace which was fairly slow throughout the book and suddenly sped up to a crazy speed where years and years were going by with each turn of the page!

 Parts that stood out?
Chapter One was actually one of my favourite's, it successfully drew me in and the story of the pea stuck in the old man's ear had me laughing hysterically- this could just be my odd sense of humour but  defy you not ti chuckle at it :P

The death of Francis and the reactio of Carlo was the part of the book that tore at my heart strings the most , it was so emotional and sad, it had me crying my eyes out, i felt for Carlo so much and wanted to travel through the pages to comfort him.

The massacre of the Italian Soldiers wasn't enjoyable to read as such, but it was well written and one of the most emotional, tragic parts of the book, made worse because it was based on truth. It's certainly a scene that sticks in my mind after finishing the novel.

And of course the words of Dr Ianis to his daughter, about the nature of love, that are read at many weddings today were nothing but beautiful :)

In a Nutshell
I really enjoyed this book and how it portrayed how political history has such a profound effect on the lives of individuals.The best thing about Captain Correlli's Mandolin in my opinion is how it could swing from being laugh out funny to desperately tragic so quickly. There was so much humour in this book, often a dry sattical humour which often seamlessly led into the sad and bleak scenes. At the end of the day this book made me chuckle and laugh and made me cry- at the death of Frances and the death of Carlo, and this is the most I can ask from a book, it drew me into it's world enough to make me really believe in the characters and cry at their losses. If anyone hasn't read this book, then my advice is to drop what you're doing and head straight to your nearest library, this is a must-read!

Has anybody else read this book or want to? What are your thoughts?

Heather xxx


Emma :) said...

YOU KNOW I LOVE THIS BOOK <3 I agree that the ending didn't sit very well with me...but I think that reflects on myself as young grasshoppers not liking people growing old and bitter. And I cried more at this book than any other except the last Harry Potter. I cried on the train.
I love also the way they captured the atmosphere of the island and how it taught me more about the Greek Civil War than Mr Cox ever did :)

Elly R said...

Im with Emma here, I loved it! And maybe my love for it clouds my judgement but theres one thing you said that i rally dont agree with.
You said the early years were in immense detail and the end just flew and i felt this was really symbloic of the fact that theyd spent their lives apart so that when they finally met again at the end and they recapped their lives it was the way we read it. They had so much to catch up for in a short space of time to make up for their lives apart :'( n'est pas?
I cried SO MUCH to this book, sitting in the car journeying back from france tears flooded down my face.
Also, im enjoying how timely your posts are (*emma*), its going goooooood :)

Heather said...

@ Emma: Glad you love this book too :) I actually don't think I cried in Harry Potter, maybe at Dumbledore's death but I doubt it. I agree with you about the atmosphere of the island- and I knew nothing about the greek civil war before this book- I'm just assuming it's factually correct :P
I figured out how to comment yay! But I have no idea why my header has dissapeared :S

@ Elly: Yep I do see your point, I just found it hard to adjust to the sudden acceleration in pace, but I was so happy that they met again at the end and -presumably- spent the last years of their lives together :) Glad you're reading-hopefully my posts will all my posts I've written in advance will work :)