Corelli's Mandolin

( 39 )

Overview

Extravagant, inventive, emotionally sweeping, Corelli's Mandolin is the story of a timeless place that one day wakes up to find itself in the jaws of history.  The place is the Greek island of Cephallonia, where gods once dabbled in the affairs of men and the local saint periodically rises from his sarcophagus to cure the mad.  Then the tide of World War II rolls onto the island's shores in the form of the conquering Italian army.

Caught in the occupation are...

See more details below
Paperback
$12.99
BN.com price
(Save 18%)$15.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (592) from $1.99   
  • New (26) from $1.99   
  • Used (566) from $1.99   
Corelli's Mandolin

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$11.99
BN.com price

Overview

Extravagant, inventive, emotionally sweeping, Corelli's Mandolin is the story of a timeless place that one day wakes up to find itself in the jaws of history.  The place is the Greek island of Cephallonia, where gods once dabbled in the affairs of men and the local saint periodically rises from his sarcophagus to cure the mad.  Then the tide of World War II rolls onto the island's shores in the form of the conquering Italian army.

Caught in the occupation are Pelagia, a willful, beautiful young woman, and the two suitors vying for her love:  Mandras, a gentle fisherman turned ruthless guerilla, and the charming, mandolin-playing Captain Corelli, a reluctant officer of the Italian garrison on the island.  Rich with loyalties and betrayals, and set against a landscape where the factual blends seamlessly with the fantastic, Corelli's Mandolin is a passionate novel as rich in ideas as it is genuinely moving.

Extravagant, inventive, emotionally sweeping, this rich and lyrical, heartbreaking and hilarious novel has been widely hailed as a classic.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Brims with all the grand topics of literature—love and death, heroism and skull-duggery, humor and pathos, not to mention art and religion. . . . A good old-fashioned novel." —Washington Post Book World

"An exuberant mixture of history and romance, written with a wit that is incandescent"—Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Stunning. . . . A high-spirited historical romance. . . . Remarkable." —The New York Times Book Review

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This dark yet dazzling tour de force invigorates the genre of antiwar comedies in the style of Hasek, Heller and Vonnegut. Bernieres sweeps across a 50 year history of a glorious Greek Island at peace and at war and simultaneously homes in on its panoply of major and minor characters and the Italians forced by Mussolini to invade them. The fusion of Greek and Christian mythologies in Cephalonia makes for rollicking scenes such as the Feast of St. Gerasimos, with its miracle cures and drunken stupors. The barbaric, paranoid absurdity of Mussolini and his ill-prepared, ill-led and unwilling army makes both for high comedy and blood curdling scenes of starvation, misery and death. The humanizing role of the arts, musical and medical, informs it all. Because Berniers's farce and fury erupt through a witty word play carefully tone shifts, listening to this novel is, in some ways, even better than reading it. Lang fearlessly carries listeners through swiftly changing currents of tenderness and horror, kindness and cruelty. With his fine array of Greek, Italian and British accents, he masterfully reveals the soaring emotional range across and within characters. Even the lengthy tirades of fascist dictators and communist dogmatists are rendered with passionate, painful and refreshing irony. Based on the 1994 Pantheon hardcover. (Jan.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Heartbreaking, beautiful and deeply moving--if not always entirely believable--de Bernieres's extraordinary novel is based on a historic episode: the Nazis' occupation of the sleepy Greek island of Cephallonia and their slaughter of thousands of occupying Italian troops who turned against fascism in solidarity with the native Greeks. The novel's central love story, pairing willful Greek beauty Pelagia and jesting Italian captain Antonio Corelli, a mandolin player, reluctant soldier and despiser of Mussolini, veers toward sentimentality until their idyll is shattered by the German invasion. Pelagia's immature fiance, Greek fisherman Mandras, becomes a fanatical Communist, commits atrocities and later returns from battle to beat Pelagia, who shoots him. By this time, Corelli--saved from a Nazi firing squad by his driver, Carlo, a closet homosexual who unrequitedly loves him--has left to fight the Germans. Pelagia narrowly survives, but her father, an erudite widowed doctor, is killed by Greek Communists. De Bernieres ( The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts ) follows the fortunes of his resilient heroine and the war orphan she adopts through 1933, when we learn that Corelli, presumed dead, has absented himself for decades due to a calamitous misunderstanding. Swinging between antic ribaldry and criminal horror, between corrosive satire and infinite sorrow, this soaring novel glows with a wise humanity that is rare in contemporary fiction. ( Sept. )
Library Journal
Set on the Greek island of Cephallonia, this splendid novel spans five decades beginning in the late 1930s just before the Axis forces occupy the island. Using myriad voices to chronicle the horrors of combat and the boredom of occupation, it is by turns funny, sad, and cruel. Corelli is an Italian army captain, a member of the first extraneous forces to occupy Cephallonia, and the lover of Pelagia Iannis. It is through Pelagia's voice that much of the story is revealed, but the chorus includes her father, various Greek villagers, Italian and Greek soldiers, and a goatherd. Besides showing considerable knowledge of historical events and of stringed instruments, the author reveals a keen ability to switch perspectives from young to old, monarchist to Communist, combat soldier to passive peasant, male to female. It doesn't matter that the plot becomes a bit sappy in the last 20 pages because most readers will have already guessed the conclusion and are reveling in the glitter of all that precedes it. Essential purchase for all fiction collections.-Olivia Opello, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679763970
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/16/1995
  • Series: Vintage International Series
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 183,557
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Louis de Bernieres' novels include The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts (Commonwealth Writers Prize, Best First Book Eurasia Region, 1991), Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord (Commonwealth Writers Prize, Best Book Eurasia Region, 1992), and The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman. The author, who lives in London, was selected as one of the twenty Best of Young British Novelists 1993.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Dr Iannis Commences his History and is Frustrated

Dr Iannis had enjoyed a satisfactory day in which none of his patients had died or got any worse. He had attended a surprisingly easy calving, lanced one abscess, extracted a molar, dosed one lady of easy virtue with Salvarsan, performed an unpleasant but spectacularly fruitful enema, and had produced a miracle by a feat of medical prestidigitation.

He chuckled to himself, for no doubt this miracle was already being touted as worthy of St Gerasimos himself. He had gone to old man Stamatis' house, having been summoned to deal with an earache, and had found himself gazing down into an aural orifice more dank, be-lichened, and stalagmitic even than the Drogarati cave. He had set about cleaning the lichen away with the aid of a little cotton, soaked in alcohol, and wrapped about the end of a long matchstick. He was aware that old man Stamatis had been deaf in that ear since childhood, and that it had been a constant source of pain, but was nonetheless surprised when, deep in that hairy recess, the tip of his matchstick seemed to encounter something hard and unyielding; something, that is to say, which had no physiological or anatomical excuse for its presence. He took the old man over to the window, threw open the shutters, and an explosion of midday heat and light instantaneously threw the room into an effulgent dazzle, as though some importunate and unduly luminous angel had misguidedly picked that place for an epiphany. Old Stamatis' wife tutted; it was simply bad housekeeping to allow that much light into the house at such an hour. She was sure that it stirred up the dust; she could clearly see the motes rising up from the surfaces.

Dr Iannis tilted the old man's head and peered into the ear. With his long matchstick he pressed aside the undergrowth of stiff grey hairs embellished with flakes of exfoliated scurf. There was something spherical within. He scraped its surface to remove the hard brown cankerous coating of wax, and beheld a pea. It was undoubtedly a pea; it was light green, its surface was slightly wrinkled, and there could not be any doubt in the matter. 'Have you ever stuck anything down your ear?' he demanded.

'Only my finger,' replied Stamatis.

'And how long have you been deaf in this ear?'

'Since as long as I can remember.'

Dr Iannis found an absurd picture rising up before his imagination. It was Stamatis as a toddler, with the same gnarled face, the same stoop, the same overmeasure of aural hair, reaching up to the kitchen table and taking a dried pea from a wooden bowl. He stuck it into his mouth, found it too hard to bite, and crammed it into his ear. The doctor chuckled, 'You must have been a very annoying little boy.'

'He was a devil.'

'Be quiet, woman, you didn't even know me in those days.'

'I have your mother's word, God rest her soul,' replied the old woman, pursing her lips and folding her arms, 'and I have the word of your sisters.'

Dr Iannis considered the problem. It was undoubtedly an obdurate and recalcitrant pea, and it was too tightly packed to lever it out. 'Do you have a fishhook, about the right size for a mullet, with a long shank? And do you have a light hammer?'

The couple looked at each other with the single thought that their doctor must have lost his mind. 'What does this have to do with my earache?' asked Stamatis suspiciously.

'You have an exorbitant auditory impediment,' replied the doctor, ever conscious of the necessity for maintaining a certain iatric mystique, and fully aware that 'a pea in the ear' was unlikely to earn him any kudos. 'I can remove it with a fishhook and a small hammer; it's the ideal way of overcoming un embarras de petit pois.' He spoke the French words in a mincingly Parisian accent, even though his irony was apparent only to himself.

A hook and a hammer were duly fetched, and the doctor carefully straightened the hook on the stone flags of the floor. He then summoned the old man and told him to lay his head on the sill in the light. Stamatis lay there rolling his eyes, and the old lady put her hands over hers, watching through her fingers. 'Hurry up, Doctor,' exclaimed Stamatis, 'this sill is hotter than hell.'

The doctor carefully inserted the straightened hook into the hirsute orifice and raised the hammer, only to be deflected from his course by a hoarse shriek very reminiscent of that of a raven. Perplexed and horrified, the old wife was wringing her hands and keening, 'O, o, o, you are going to drive a fishhook into his brain. Christ have mercy, all the saints and Mary protect us.'

This interjection gave the doctor pause; he reflected that if the pea was very hard, there was a good chance that the barb would not penetrate, but would drive the pea deeper into its recess. The drum might even be broken. He straightened up and twirled his white moustache reflectively with one forefinger. 'Change of plan,' he announced. 'I have decided upon further thought that it would be better to fill his ear up with water and mollify the supererogatory occlusion. Kyria, you must keep this ear filled with warm water until I return this evening. Do not allow the patient to move, keep him lying on his side with his ear full. Is that understood?'

Dr Iannis returned at six o'clock and hooked the softened pea successfully without the aid of a hammer, small or otherwise. He worked it out deftly enough, and presented it to the couple for their inspection. Encrusted with thick dark wax, rank and malodorous, it was recognisable to neither of them as anything leguminous. 'It's very papilionaceous, is it not?' enquired the doctor.

The old woman nodded with every semblance of having understood, which she had not, but with an expression of wonder alight in her eyes. Stamatis clapped his hand to the side of his head and exclaimed, 'It's cold in there. My God, it's loud. I mean everything is loud. My own voice is loud.'

'Your deafness is cured,' announced Dr Iannis. 'A very satisfactory operation, I think.'

'I've had an operation,' said Stamatis complacently. 'I'm the only person I know who's had an operation. And now I can hear. It's a miracle, that's what it is. My head feels empty, it feels hollow, it feels as though my whole head has filled up with spring water, all cold and clear.'

'Well, is it empty, or is it full?' demanded the old lady. 'Talk some sense when the doctor has been kind enough to cure you.' She took Iannis' hand in both of her own and kissed it, and shortly afterwards he found himself walking home with a fat pullet under each arm, a shiny dark aubergine stuffed into each pocket of his jacket, and an ancient pea wrapped up in his handkerchief, to be added to his private medical museum.

It had been a good day for payments; he had also earned two very large and fine crayfish, a pot of whitebait, a basil plant, and an offer of sexual intercourse (to be redeemed at his convenience). He had resolved that he would not be taking up that particular offer, even if the Salvarsan were effective. He was left with a whole evening in which to write his history of Cephallonia, as long as Pelagia had remembered to purchase some more oil for the lamps.

'The New History of Cephallonia' was proving to be a problem; it seemed to be impossible to write it without the intrusion of his own feelings and prejudices. Objectivity seemed to be quite unattainable, and he felt that his false starts must have wasted more paper than was normally used on the island in the space of a year. The voice that emerged in his account was intractably his own; it was never historical. It lacked grandeur and impartiality. It was not Olympian.

He sat down and wrote: 'Cephallonia is a factory that breeds babies for export. There are more Cephallonians abroad or at sea than there are at home. There is no indigenous industry that keeps families together, there is not enough arable land, there is an insufficiency of fish in the ocean. Our men go abroad and return here to die, and so we are an island of children, spinsters, priests, and the very old. The only good thing about it is that only the beautiful women find husbands amongst those men that are left, and so the pressure of natural selection has ensured that we have the most beautiful women in all of Greece, and perhaps in the whole region of the Mediterranean. The unhappy thing about this is that we have beautiful and spirited women married to the most grotesque and inappropriate husbands, who are good for nothing and never could be, and we have some sad and ugly women that nobody wants, who are born to be widows without ever having had a husband.'

The doctor refilled his pipe and read this through. He listened to Pelagia clattering outdoors in the yard, preparing to boil the crayfish. He read what he had written about beautiful women, and remembered his wife, as lovely as her daughter had become, and dead from tuberculosis despite everything he had been able to do. 'This island betrays its own people in the mere act of existing,' he wrote, and then he crumpled the sheet of paper and flung it into the corner of the room. This would never do; why could he not write like a writer of histories? Why could he not write without passion? Without anger? Without the sense of betrayal and oppression? He picked up the sheet, already bent at the corners, that he had written first. It was the title page: 'The New History of Cephallonia'. He crossed out the first two words and substituted 'A Personal'. Now he could forget about leaving out the loaded adjectives and the ancient historical grudges, now he could be vitriolic about the Romans, the Normans, the Venetians, the Turks, the British, and even the islanders themselves. He wrote:

'The half-forgotten island of Cephallonia rises improvidently and inadvisedly from the Ionian Sea; it is an island so immense in antiquity that the very rocks themselves exhale nostalgia and the red earth lies stupefied not only by the sun, but by the impossible weight of memory. The ships of Odysseus were built of Cephallonian pine, his bodyguards were Cephallonian giants, and some maintain that his palace was not in Ithaca but in Cephallonia.

'But even before that wily and itinerant king was favoured by Athene or set adrift through the implacable malice of Poseidon, Mesolithic and Neolithic peoples were chipping knives from obsidian and casting nets for fish. The Mycenean Hellenes arrived, leaving behind the shards of their amphorae and their breastshaped tombs, bequeathing progeny who, long after the departure of Odysseus, would fight for Athens, be tyrannised by Sparta, and then defeat even the megalomaniac Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander, curiously known as "the Great" and a more preposterous megalomaniac still.

'It was an island filled with gods. On the summit of Mt Aenos there was a shrine to Zeus, and another upon the tiny islet of Thios. Demeter was worshipped for making the island the breadbasket of Ionia, as was Poseidon, the god who had raped her whilst disguised as a stallion, leaving her to give birth to a black horse and a mystical daughter whose name was lost when the Eleusinian mysteries were suppressed by the Christians. Here was Apollo, slayer of the Python, guardian of the navel of the earth, beautiful, youthful, wise, just, strong, hyperbolically bisexual, and the only god to have had a temple made for him by bees out of wax and feathers. Here Dionysus was worshipped also, the god of wine, pleasure, civilisation, and vegetation, father by Aphrodite of a little boy attached to the most gargantuan penis that ever encumbered man or god. Artemis had her worshippers here, too, the many-breasted virgin huntress, a goddess of such radically feminist convictions that she had Actaeon torn to pieces by dogs for accidentally seeing her naked, and had her paramour Orion stung to death by scorpions for touching her fortuitously. She was such a fastidious stickler for etiquette and summary chastisement that entire dynasties could be disposed of for one word out of place or an oblation five minutes late. There were temples to Athene, too, the perpetual virgin who (with great forbearance, compared to Artemis) blinded Tiresias for seeing her naked, was formidably gifted in those crafts which are indispensable to economic and domestic life, and who was the patron of oxen, horses, and olives.

'In their choice of gods the people of the island displayed the immense and intransigent common sense that has been the secret of their survival throughout the centuries; it is obvious that the king of the deities should be worshipped, obvious that a seafaring people should placate the god of the sea, obvious that vintners should honour Dionisios (it is still the most common name on the island), obvious that Demeter should be honoured for keeping the island self-sufficient, obvious that Athene should be worshipped for her gifts of wisdom and skill in the tasks of daily life, just as it also fell to her to oversee innumerable military emergencies. Nor should it be wondered at that Artemis should have had her cult, for this was the equivalent of an infallible insurance policy; she was a troublesome gadfly whose mischief should in preference have been made to occur elsewhere.

'The choice of Apollo as a Cephallonian cult is both the most and the least mysterious. It is the most inexplicable to those who have never been to the island, and the most inevitable to those who know it, for Apollo is a god associated with the power of light. Strangers who land here are blinded for two days.

'It is a light that seems unmediated either by the air or by the stratosphere. It is completely virgin, it produces overwhelming clarity of focus, it has heroic strength and brilliance. It exposes colours in their original prelapsarian state, as though straight from the imagination of God in His youngest days, when He still believed that all was good. The dark green of the pines is unfathomably and retreatingly deep, the ocean viewed from the top of a cliff is platonic in its presentation of azure and turquoise, emerald, viridian, and lapis lazuli. The eye of a goat is a living semi-precious stone half way between amber and arylide, and the crickets are the fluorescent green of the youngest shoots of grass in the original Eden. Once the eyes have adjusted to the extreme vestal chastity of this light, the light of any other place is miserable and dank by comparison; it is nothing more than something to see by, a disappointment, a blemish. Even the seawater of Cephallonia is easier to see through than the air of any other place; a man may float in the water watching the distant sea bed, and clearly see lugubrious rays that for some reason are always accompanied by diminutive flatfish.'

Read More Show Less

Introduction

The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group's reading of Louis de Bernieres's Corelli's Mandolin. We hope they will give you a number of angles from which to look at this rich and exciting novel.

Read More Show Less

Foreword

1. What understanding does Pelagia have of love as a young girl? How do her ideas come to change during the course of the novel? What is Carlo Guercio's definition of love? How does it guide his actions throughout the story? What is the difference between the love he feels for Francisco and that which he feels for Corelli? How might the other characters define love? Which of them lives up to his or her conception of it?

2. Why do you think de Bernieres chose to make his romantic hero a musician? Why is music, of all the arts, a potential healer of international folly and strife? What significance does Corelli's composition "Pelagia's March" carry within the narrative?

3. After Mandras tries to rape Pelagia, he is very decisively rejected not only by Pelagia but by his own mother. Does Drosoula's rejection of her son strike you as reasonable or heartless? As natural or unnatural? Was Mandras irredeemably lost at this point, or might he perhaps have been saved?

4. What is the role of the Church in Cephallonian life? What does pragmatic toleration of the drunken Arsenios say about the islanders' culture, their character, and their religion? How does Arsenios repay their tolerance? Does the palpable presence of the ancient deities alongside the Orthodox ceremonial enrich the Greeks' faith or dilute it? What importance does the cult of Saint Gerasimos have for the islanders? What interpretation do individual characters such as Dr. Iannis and Pelagia give to the saint's miraculous "cures"?

5. Dr. Iannis writes that the island of Cephallonia is "so immense in antiquity that the very rocks themselves exhale nostalgia and the red earth lies stupefied not only bythe sun, but by the impossible weight of memory" [p. 5]. How does their awareness of the island's history and prehistory color the way the Cephallonians see themselves? Does it help them to come to terms with their traditional roles in life? What attitude does it give them toward their recent conquerors?

6. "Honour and common sense; in the light of the other, both of them are ridiculous" [p. 320]. What does de Bernieres mean by this? How do the novel's events confirm or illustrate this statement? Do you find that in certain of the novel's characters these two qualities are not, in fact, mutually exclusive?

7. Carlo Guercio memorably describes the war as "frivolous" [p. 116]. What does he mean by this? How is the quality of frivolity exemplified in the actions of the military leaders and those who follow them? Do you find the adjective an appropriate one for the war described in these pages?

8. What message does this book deliver on the nature of political ideology and political passion? What is the role of political ideology in the lives of Mandras, Kokolias, Stamatis, Hector, Weber, Alexi? How do their actions support or refute their stated political creeds? What political or antipolitical ideals inspire the novel's most noble characters, Carlo and Dr. Iannis?

9. During World War II, atrocities and betrayals were committed on an unprecedented scale. De Bernieres explores the psychology of those who committed those atrocities through several of his characters. Mandras's justification that "it was Hector who was the executioner and he was only the hand" [p. 193] was a common one among Nazi, Fascist, and Communist executioners. How does this justification differ from Gunter Weber's traumatic decision to obey Hitler's order for the massacre of Italian soldiers? Why is Gunter characterized as a "good Nazi"? Is this appellation entirely ironic?

10. Do you find de Bernieres's use of national stereotypes to be effective within his fictional scheme? To what degree can Dr. Iannis be seen as the personification of Greece, Corelli as the spirit of Italy? Do they succeed as three-dimensional characters as well? Do Pelagia's and Corelli's guilt-induced decisions to refute their own nationalities make them any the less "Greek" or "Italian"?

11. Dr. Iannis finds that in writing his history, "objectivity seemed to be quite unattainable" [p. 4]. Carlo says that history tends to be "the propaganda of the victors" when it should consist "only of the anecdotes of the little people who are caught up in it" [p. 33]. Does de Bernieres confront these problems in the way he writes his own historical novel? What narrative techniques does he employ in telling his story? In his Author's Note, de Bernieres describes history as "hearsay tempered with myth and hazy memory" [p. 436], yet he himself has in fact remained very faithful to the historical facts as we know them. Why, then, does he offer this apology? Are myth and history significantly differentiated by de Bernieres? By Iannis? By Pelagia?

12. Did Pelagia believe that Corelli died during the war? If not, why does she not leave Cephallonia and try to find him? Does her remaining at home denote passivity or ambivalence about their relationship? What about Pelagia's initial rage at Corelli when they meet again—do you feel that her anger is excessive, or that possibly she is not angry enough?

13. In Pelagia's youth no woman was allowed to enter a kapheneia; thirty years later, the elderly Drosoula runs her own taverna and young Antonia is a successful businesswoman. Changes in social mores might not have manifested themselves as dramatically on Cephallonia during the postwar years as they did in more cosmopolitan areas, but they were in fact radical and profound. How does everyday life on Cephallonia reflect these changes? What role, if any, did the 1953 earthquake play in changing the island, and in the shift in generations? Does de Bernieres imply that the changes are for the better, or for the worse? Or, perhaps, that in essence life has not changed very much at all?

14. Does the happy ending conform with the plot and spirit of the entire novel, or does it represent a shift into a more fantastic, less realistic mode? Do you find it to be an appropriate or an inappropriate conclusion to Pelagia's and Corelli's story?

15. In what way are the novel's characters directly or indirectly compared with figures from Greek mythology? Among the Cephallonians, what modern manifestations do we find of Apollo, Aphrodite, Penelope, Odysseus, Hercules, and other mythological figures? What message about time and change does de Bernieres convey through these parallels?

16. De Bernieres chooses his characters' names with care. What significance can you ascribe to particular names, such as Pelagia, Mandras, Hector, Corelli, Weber?

17. Why do you think de Bernieres has chosen the Humbert Wolfe poem "The Soldier" to launch his narrative? Which themes in the poem are explored in the novel itself? Perhaps the most famous war poem in the English language, by Rupert Brooke, is also called "The Soldier." How does Wolfe's poem comment upon Brooke's? How might the various soldiers in Corelli's Mandolin respond to the assertions made by both poets? Is the kind of idealism glorified by Brooke finally meaningless, as many of his contemporaries, physically and emotionally crushed by World War I, came to find it? Or is it in fact a valuable characteristic, at least within de Bernieres's moral scheme?

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

1. What understanding does Pelagia have of love as a young girl? How do her ideas come to change during the course of the novel? What is Carlo Guercio's definition of love? How does it guide his actions throughout the story? What is the difference between the love he feels for Francisco and that which he feels for Corelli? How might the other characters define love? Which of them lives up to his or her conception of it?

2. Why do you think de Bernieres chose to make his romantic hero a musician? Why is music, of all the arts, a potential healer of international folly and strife? What significance does Corelli's composition "Pelagia's March" carry within the narrative?

3. After Mandras tries to rape Pelagia, he is very decisively rejected not only by Pelagia but by his own mother. Does Drosoula's rejection of her son strike you as reasonable or heartless? As natural or unnatural? Was Mandras irredeemably lost at this point, or might he perhaps have been saved?

4. What is the role of the Church in Cephallonian life? What does pragmatic toleration of the drunken Arsenios say about the islanders' culture, their character, and their religion? How does Arsenios repay their tolerance? Does the palpable presence of the ancient deities alongside the Orthodox ceremonial enrich the Greeks' faith or dilute it? What importance does the cult of Saint Gerasimos have for the islanders? What interpretation do individual characters such as Dr. Iannis and Pelagia give to the saint's miraculous "cures"?

5. Dr. Iannis writes that the island of Cephallonia is "so immense in antiquity that the very rocks themselves exhale nostalgia and the red earth lies stupefied not only by the sun, but by the impossible weight of memory" [p. 5]. How does their awareness of the island's history and prehistory color the way the Cephallonians see themselves? Does it help them to come to terms with their traditional roles in life? What attitude does it give them toward their recent conquerors?

6. "Honour and common sense; in the light of the other, both of them are ridiculous" [p. 320]. What does de Bernieres mean by this? How do the novel's events confirm or illustrate this statement? Do you find that in certain of the novel's characters these two qualities are not, in fact, mutually exclusive?

7. Carlo Guercio memorably describes the war as "frivolous" [p. 116]. What does he mean by this? How is the quality of frivolity exemplified in the actions of the military leaders and those who follow them? Do you find the adjective an appropriate one for the war described in these pages?

8. What message does this book deliver on the nature of political ideology and political passion? What is the role of political ideology in the lives of Mandras, Kokolias, Stamatis, Hector, Weber, Alexi? How do their actions support or refute their stated political creeds? What political or antipolitical ideals inspire the novel's most noble characters, Carlo and Dr. Iannis?

9. During World War II, atrocities and betrayals were committed on an unprecedented scale. De Bernieres explores the psychology of those who committed those atrocities through several of his characters. Mandras's justification that "it was Hector who was the executioner and he was only the hand" [p. 193] was a common one among Nazi, Fascist, and Communist executioners. How does this justification differ from Gunter Weber's traumatic decision to obey Hitler's order for the massacre of Italian soldiers? Why is Gunter characterized as a "good Nazi"? Is this appellation entirely ironic?

10. Do you find de Bernieres's use of national stereotypes to be effective within his fictional scheme? To what degree can Dr. Iannis be seen as the personification of Greece, Corelli as the spirit of Italy? Do they succeed as three-dimensional characters as well? Do Pelagia's and Corelli's guilt-induced decisions to refute their own nationalities make them any the less "Greek" or "Italian"?

11. Dr. Iannis finds that in writing his history, "objectivity seemed to be quite unattainable" [p. 4]. Carlo says that history tends to be "the propaganda of the victors" when it should consist "only of the anecdotes of the little people who are caught up in it" [p. 33]. Does de Bernieres confront these problems in the way he writes his own historical novel? What narrative techniques does he employ in telling his story? In his Author's Note, de Bernieres describes history as "hearsay tempered with myth and hazy memory" [p. 436], yet he himself has in fact remained very faithful to the historical facts as we know them. Why, then, does he offer this apology? Are myth and history significantly differentiated by de Bernieres? By Iannis? By Pelagia?

12. Did Pelagia believe that Corelli died during the war? If not, why does she not leave Cephallonia and try to find him? Does her remaining at home denote passivity or ambivalence about their relationship? What about Pelagia's initial rage at Corelli when they meet again—do you feel that her anger is excessive, or that possibly she is not angry enough?

13. In Pelagia's youth no woman was allowed to enter a kapheneia; thirty years later, the elderly Drosoula runs her own taverna and young Antonia is a successful businesswoman. Changes in social mores might not have manifested themselves as dramatically on Cephallonia during the postwar years as they did in more cosmopolitan areas, but they were in fact radical and profound. How does everyday life on Cephallonia reflect these changes? What role, if any, did the 1953 earthquake play in changing the island, and in the shift in generations? Does de Bernieres imply that the changes are for the better, or for the worse? Or, perhaps, that in essence life has not changed very much at all?

14. Does the happy ending conform with the plot and spirit of the entire novel, or does it represent a shift into a more fantastic, less realistic mode? Do you find it to be an appropriate or an inappropriate conclusion to Pelagia's and Corelli's story?

15. In what way are the novel's characters directly or indirectly compared with figures from Greek mythology? Among the Cephallonians, what modern manifestations do we find of Apollo, Aphrodite, Penelope, Odysseus, Hercules, and other mythological figures? What message about time and change does de Bernieres convey through these parallels?

16. De Bernieres chooses his characters' names with care. What significance can you ascribe to particular names, such as Pelagia, Mandras, Hector, Corelli, Weber?

17. Why do you think de Bernieres has chosen the Humbert Wolfe poem "The Soldier" to launch his narrative? Which themes in the poem are explored in the novel itself? Perhaps the most famous war poem in the English language, by Rupert Brooke, is also called "The Soldier." How does Wolfe's poem comment upon Brooke's? How might the various soldiers in Corelli's Mandolin respond to the assertions made by both poets? Is the kind of idealism glorified by Brooke finally meaningless, as many of his contemporaries, physically and emotionally crushed by World War I, came to find it? Or is it in fact a valuable characteristic, at least within de Bernieres's moral scheme?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 39 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(30)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2004

    The Horrors and Idiocy of World War II

    This remarkable book brilliantly captures both the horrors and idiocy of the Second World War without leaving the confines of the small Greek island of Cephalonia. De Bernieres obviously loves his characters, and consequently so does the reader. The book swings from rich humor to abject misery effectively, and the love story between Pelagia, a Greek woman, and Antonio, an officer of the Italian army that is occupying the island, is real and touching. Their love is an antidote to the barbarity closing in around them. The secondary characters also come to life, and Mussolini¿s monologues, interspersed among the chapters, are a brilliant commentary on megalomania. The descriptions of life in the village on Cephalonia are both funny and moving, the battle scenes are horrifying, and the indecision of the Italian army's brass is so stupefying it still makes you angry sixty years later. I was surprised that the book went beyond the war years right up to the `90s, a touch I had mixed feelings about. But overall I thought the book a modern classic. Too bad the movie wasn¿t up to the standards of the book; if you¿ve seen the movie don¿t be put off ¿ this is a touching book you will enjoy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2014

    Thomas

    Falls aslerp with you in his arms (gtg)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2014

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 15, 2012

    Good Story, but Too Drawn Out

    I like the idea and even most of the characters for this story (though a few of them are caricatures), but the author was very long-winded. While it's good for the author to be intimately familiar with all the details and back story for the events and characters of his story, the reader doesn't need or want to know all of it. With Corelli's Mandolin, the author could have cut out a lot to give the story more impact.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2009

    witty and very entertaining

    The vocabulary can be quite crazy and strange which is challenging but also funny. This book is very funny and although, like many books, there are slow parts it is definately entertaining and at times hilarious! I'm sure if you read it you will find yourself chuckling. I definately recommend this book - it is a very fun read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2006

    Genius!

    Beautifully written, heartbreaking and humorous with a backdrop of history, Louis de Bernieres truly captivates the reader in this epic tale.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2005

    A sweeping historical novel!

    DeBernieres did a masterful job with this book, honing his skills on earlier Latin novels. His portrayals of the Greek characters are fresh and alive. Occasionally his passages are so gripping that I've practically memorized them, and I return to read them again and again. This is a stellar job of weaving a generational story with a little known part of the world and its tumultuous history. A fine book, attested to by its phenomenal success in Britain.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2004

    BOOR RING

    Too long, repetitive, uninteresting.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2003

    Why do you read?

    If you desire advanced diction and elevated syntax, discover this novel. Pure in story yet broad in scope, this is one of the best-sounding books I have read. Occasionally garrulous in the historical subplots, its overall lyrical quality is hypnotic. I use it for several writing lessons with my IB students, and I suggest teachers of AP and IB to consider it for style analysis!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2002

    An epic novel

    In Captain Corelli's Mandolin the genres romance, tragedy, history and comedy have been intricitaely woven into a magical- realism novel. The result is an enchanting, heartbreaking piece of art that I have read twice to ensure to assimilate the detail, the passion in the life of the characters, piecing the historical and emotional jigsaw together. Never have i indulged in such a captivating novel. How deBerniere has sketched such vibrant characters and breathed life into them. The structure is brilliant, the moods of the chapters fluctuate to act as breaches in the novel, such as comic relief between episodes in anguish, war and loss. One would assume that such fluctuations would have a perturbing effect on the flow of the novel, such an assumption is completely incorrect. So profoundly have the elements been sewn and consolidated, there is no distruption in the flow of the novel, just brief rests for the emotions erupting inside of us to cool, and then start anew. I am adament that I will not watch the film as I wouldn't want to fracture the enchanting world that DeBernieres has painted with words.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2001

    Romance, Comedy all on Cephallonia

    This was an amazing book that was written with a clarity few other authors achieve. The characters were multidimensional and fickle, whilst still being consistent in their humanity. Set against a magical background that is Cephallonia, this is a tale both of tragedy and overpowering love. Corelli himself is a poet-king, loved by his men, adored by Pelagia and in love with life itself. His wit, his shameless comedy, his flair for the outrageous, make the backdrop of war all the more bleak and desolate. What a fantastic read! Trust me ... this is one not to miss!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2001

    EXOTIC LOCALE

    The visuals created of the people and the island make the book worth reading. Good story set in a beautiful locale.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2001

    Corelli's Mandolin-a wonderful experience

    This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. The characters were beautifully drawn and the juxtaposition of positive human attributes of love, music, compassion and natural beauty to the barbarity of war was breathtakingly done. I couldn't put it down.At the end I was enraged by the brutalities that occurred and amazed again by the power of music and love. No one has, however, mentioned the similarities of this story to the Italian film, Mediterraneo.I wonder if de Bernieres took anything from this wonderful movie?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2001

    A romantic realist's dream read

    Although the beginning was slow and the voices of the rustic chorus was initially slightly offputting, this novel soons sweeps you into its grasp. The comic touches and romance at the core of the novel are rendered with a vulnerable reality by the inevitably of history's narrative that engulfs the island of Cepphalonia . The jigsaw puzzle of characters, events, actions and consequences is crafted together with a perfect sense of timing, suspense, and a horrifically realistic depiction of the futility of war. I hope the film of the book does it justice, and perhaps can make more of its frustrating ending.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2001

    Perfect Summer Reading

    'Corelli's Mandolin' weaves an enchanting and beautiful story with superb language and prose. The author's descriptions are so vivid that one could easily picture the action from the page. This work is a memorable read, perfect for summertime.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2001

    Captain Corelli and his Mandolin

    When my boyfriend recommended this book to me, I had high expectations. I found the first part of the book rather disappointing, a little slow at the beginning. It however, certainly picked up and made up for the slow start and by the end of the novel, I culd not put it down. I will certainly revisit this book in the future.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2001

    one of the most charming books i've read

    Corelli's Mandolin took a firm grip of my heart and didn't let go till i put it down. Set in Cephallonia, against the backdrop of world war II, it blends the horrors of the war with the beautiful and touching romance of Pelagia, a strong independent woman, daughter of a enigmatic doctor and Captain Corelli, a quintessetial Italian, grudging solider and supposed foe, with grace and charm. Every character in the book, whether it is the drunken priest or the captain' loyal friend Carlo or the wise old widow, add to its lyrical story. Wit, wisdom, war and romance whirl you through this lovely, lovely book that like a stirring piece of music, resounds in your mind long after it has been put back on the bookshelf.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2001

    Incredible novel, but...

    This is undoubtedly one of the best novels I have ever read, and not just because my family is from the island of Kefalonia. The author intertwined the history of the time and the fictional story very well. However, if you are looking for some insight into the history of the area during and after world war II, be careful. The book provides many mistruths regarding WWII and the civil war that occurred afterwards.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2001

    Incredible

    i absolutely loved this book. corelli's mandolin, even though set on the backdrops of a war deals with much more than that. the relationships that have been portrayed in this novel are highly touching. the characterisation is so interesting that it makes you not want to stop reading. highly recommended to all.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2000

    Almost Breathtaking

    The characters that have been created in this beautiful book have mesmerized me. Carlo, Dr. Iannis, Mandras and many others were wonderfully detailed. However, Pelagia may be a character that I will be unable to ever forget. The scene of Mandras returning to the sea and calling one last time for his dolphins, while to others may seem 'maudlin' to me it was one of the most significant points of the book. The last 70 or 80 pages did dissapoint me. Up till that time I could feel the passion but it seemed the author was looking for a way to end but just could not. Corelli's character, at the end, also dissapointed me. I can't believe the author made him that stupid. I did love the animal characters. Psipsina, the pine marten, made me love the characters even more. I would have to reccommend the book to my friends.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)