Uh oh. She’s back.
I had given a copy of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin to Chris for our first anniversary (Paper! Genius!), since he chose a passage from it as a reading at our wedding. (I also gave him a collection of Ogden Nash poems, since we also had the Tin Wedding Whistle read (my choice). I think the two pieces offered quite a nice contrast to each other: one is sweet and sombre, and the other is goofy and playful… does anyone else see the parallels?) The book has a lovely inscription from me inside the front cover…twice. There are no reliable witnesses, but at least one of them (and possibly both) were written after a day of wine tasting in Sonoma, and possibly after dinner, as well, which required another full bottle of wine and probably an opening cocktail or so…and maybe a glass of wine before bed, too. (Let’s call those the Good Old Days, hmm?)
Anyhoo, Chris took his time in reading it, but really enjoyed it, and said that he thought I would, too. So it recently made its way to the top of the pile on my bedside table (which currently features The Abs Diet and Joy Fielding’s Lost, to give you an idea of what’s coming up).
Well. I wanted to like it, so desperately.
Let’s start with the good. Louis de Bernières can write; there’s no doubt about that. His turns of phrase are beautiful and apt. His observations are humorous and lifelike, and the characters (for the most part) likeable and honourable (oh, Carlos!). In every book I read, I dog-ear a page or two with a memorable passage that catches my attention; this book is full of them. It was a powerful, moving ride of highs and lows, and I alternated between laughing out loud and crying.
But, the story. Sigh. It’s a love story, sort of, but mostly a story about the Second World War and how it affects the people on a Greek island. It depicts Italians and Greek and Germans and English, the good and the monsters and the fools of all of them, but shows everyone as human, which must have been hard at times. Without having looked anything up, I’ll assume that it’s also historically accurate. BUT, historical accuracy aside, I hate when bad things keep happening to good people. Repeatedly. To really, really good and kind people. Yes, yes, war is hell. And yes, that Greek island went through a lot, over many years. But what about the love story? What about karma? What about happy endings?
As Chris says, it WAS a happy ending. Not to spoil it for anyone, but for me, a happy ending would have come about 40 years before it did. I found that its “happy” ending was ironic; “bittersweet” doesn’t cover it, because there was so much more bitter than sweet. I guess it’s a good sign that I identified so much with the main character that I was angry/bitter/cheated FOR her, and still am, about a month after having finished it, but still!