Love, History, War, Everything

OH my God. 

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

You know those books that make you laugh, cry, laugh again, fall in love with the characters, throw them against the wall in frustration and then run to pick them up because you didn’t mean it, not really?

That is this book.

It’s the best love story I’ve ever read. It’s the saddest love story I’ve ever read. It talks about history and Fascism and Communism and Italy and Greek mythology and love.

On the Greek island Cephallonia lives an uncertified doctor, Iannis, and his daughter Pelagia. When the Italians invade, they wind up quartering Captain Antonio Corelli in their house. Naturally, Corelli and Pelagia fall in love. It’s a star-crossed romance story, but with SO MUCH MORE.

There were times when I was nodding and really thinking about things. Other times I was laughing and delighting in the story. There are some REALLY GREAT romantic moments. I laughed out loud a lot. At one point, an English paratrooper lands on the island. He learned college Greek. Unfortunately, it was Ancient Greek, so nobody can understand him. There’s this great chapter where you’re inside Mussolini’s head and he is crazy and insane and to me his voice sounded like a pissed off, sassy gay man.

Sometimes, especially in the last half, I was fighting tears. Once or twice my heart hurt so much I couldn’t keep reading, but I HAD to. I really, REALLY want to say more but I can’t because I don’t want to spoil anything for anybody. Last night I got to a certain part and started bawling.

The descriptions were beautiful. Whether they were describing a landscape and a bright shining island where the colors are more brilliant than anywhere else, or an army battalion trudging through slush and slime with bare, blistering feet, you are RIGHT THERE. The prose grabs you and never lets you go away.

And there were beautiful musings about death and life and love and music. A chapter is called “Every Parting is a Foretaste of Death.”

At some point, a little boy grapples with mortality:

He gazed at those unlined face from the ancient past, and an eerie feeling came over him. Obviously there weren’t any colors in the old days, and everything was in different shades of grey, but it wasn’t that. What troubled him was that all these pictures were taken in a present, a present that had gone. How can a present not be present? How did it come about that all that remained of so much life was little squares of stained paper with pictures on?

At another point, a character advises Pelagia about love:

Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being “in love,” which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.

Is that not one of the most beautiful things ever?

So Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is easily the best book I have read so far in this project. I realize that since I haven’t read that many books that doesn’t say much. But I definitely have a new favorite and I am going to STRONGLY recommend it to everyone I know.

Read. This. Book.

Rating: *****
Up Next:  The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett


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