The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group's reading of Louis de Bernières's Corelli's Mandolin. We hope they will give you a number of angles from which to look at this rich and exciting novel. De Bernières's story takes place on Cephallonia, a small Greek island that is still, in the years before World War II, touched with all the magic of Greek legend, and suffused with a light that is "as though straight from the imagination of God in His youngest days, when He still believed that all was good" [pp. 6-7]. There the elderly Dr. Iannis and his beautiful daughter, Pelagia, enjoy an idyllic existence, and at the age of seventeen Pelagia falls in love and becomes engaged to a handsome young fisherman, Mandras.
But in 1940 the Italians attack Greece, and the violent reality of the war disrupts the villagers' quiet lives and changes them forever. Mandras leaves Cephallonia to go to war, and upon Greece's defeat by the Axis the island is occupied by Mussolini's army. One of the Italian officers is billeted with Dr. Iannis: Antonio Corelli, a high-spirited and generous young man who plays the mandolin like an angel and inspires impromptu opera performances among his troops. Nominally an invader, an enemy to the Cephallonians, Corelli soon becomes a cherished member of their community and Pelagia inevitably becomes fascinated by him with all his promise of music, love, and joy.
The defeat of the Italian army at the hands of the Allied forces brings new traumas and dilemmas for Pelagia and Corelli, as the Germans rout their erstwhile Italian allies with a series of hair-raising murders and atrocities, and, after the armistice, Greece herself is plunged into a brutal civil war between Communist and royalist forces. Pelagia's optimism and love of life is challenged as she suffers dreadful losses, but her courage and tenacity sustain her, and finally her lifelong search for love does not go unrewarded.