Book Review: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Captain Corelli's MandolinCaptain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I will be frank. I hated this book from the start. It is everything a book shouldn’t be in this modern day and age. The author uses long-winded and exorbitant language which gives every impression of being too full of himself, too pleased with his own cleverness. The structure is too much to bear – we’re halfway through the book seemingly with the longest prologue ever known to man before Captain Corelli – the character the whole book purports to be concerned with – is even mentioned.

Never then have I been so appalled as I began to warm to the story and to the characters even despite myself. By the final third, aware that the end was coming, I was already beginning to ache inside the way I ache when a book I have fallen hopelessly in love with comes to an end. The final chapter was almost unbearable though the author is unfailingly optimistic and hopeful even in the face of the awful events which occur throughout the story.

And so I found myself having to completely reassess the story and the author’s skills and know that I was quite, quite wrong. It is a beautiful book from start to finish but you have to throw away your thoughts about how a book should be written. Forget a climax at the end – you will get several long before. Forget characters you can identify with and love – that will come imperceptibly as the story progresses so you believe these are real people with things to love and things which irritate just as in real life. Forget that a story either ends in ‘happy ever after’ or ‘desolation and despair’ – for again, life isn’t like that and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin offers something different instead.

So I will refrain from giving it five stars in this rating purely because the author misled me at the beginning, pretending pomposity and self-importance when all along he was writing a beautiful and moving tribute to those who are truly Greek, inside and out; for that, he must be punished. It is a book well worth investing the time to read right to the end and loving for every word.

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