Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, written by Louis de Bernières, entwines the stories of countless lives in brilliant detail amidst the horror of World War II.
It is hard to define whose story is most prominent as Bernières adeptly applies worth to each character. We share the woes of Carlo Guercio, who lived his life in shame, speaking only of his homosexuality in secret letters, we are immersed in the tales of Cephallonian life, its villager’s breathing life into the book and captivating the reader. We become enchanted by Pelagia and her father Doctor Iannis, whose first miracle of the book is curing a man of his deafness by removing a pea from his ear – a sign of the humour Bernières injects into his war-riddled book.
We’re introduced to Captain Corelli and his titular mandolin Antonia several chapters into the book and share Pelagia’s enchantment with its music, despite it only being heard through Bernières’s expertly placed words. Of course it is Pelagia and her relationship with the captain that takes centre stage for the most part of the book, but to describe Captain Corelli’s Mandolin as a simple love story would be to rob it of most of its magic.
The tapestry Berniere’s world is woven into is a beautifully complex one. History blends with the very human experiences of war and we read, often in horror, of the devastation the war brings. It corrupts the head of the once charming Mandras, making him bitter and resentful, it males Carlo despise himself even more whilst it threatens to take away the most important people in Pelagia’s life.
As well as its impressive exploration of the effects of war, the book also creates believable characters who enjoy a brief hiatus from the torment of war. We’re greeted by imperfect characters who are changed by the war but who are absorbing and realistic. Despite the book’s many heart-breaking moments, its a book that celebrates life and warns against the wasting of time.
With Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernières has created a timeless classic that expertly blends the atrocities of war with the human condition.