Next Book – The Periodic Table by Primo Levi

I find myself slightly on the back foot as I write this hasty next book post. I am really enjoying The Woman in Black, but not more than Out of Chingford. I gave Out of Chingford a 5/5 rating on goodreads, but that will round down to a 9/10 on the final review (well, you can’t give a 10 can you!!) I really like the goodreads rating system BTW. I’m finding myself using that and doubling it for my ratings. Silly I know, but I started rating out of 10 and it would be a pain up the proverbial to change it now! For info, goodreads ratings are, and I paraphrase here:-

  1. Don’t touch it, even with someone else’s!
  2. OK, take it or leave it.
  3. Good Book, I enjoyed reading it.
  4. Great Book, I recommend it and you should really read it if you can.
  5. READ IT! rush out and buy it or you will not be able to breath tomorrow. It is fantastic!

So, Out of Chingford was a really good book. I think I will rate Woman in Black a 4/5, but although I’m not rating it as highly, I cant put it down! I have been reading it while walking along and took the opportunity to read at lunchtime today, both are things I haven’t done for a long time, at least since starting this blog. There is of course the possibility that I subconsciously want to get it over and done with, but I don’t think that is really the case. I am finding that I’m actually goading myself into being scared by it and doing it anyway…


Sorry, just realised that I have digressed. Quick post to announce the next book, then back to the reading!

My next book is The Periodic Table by Primo Levi. I chose it because I didn’t want to dive back into another fantasy or go towards sci-fi at the moment. Something based in reality felt right, maybe because I enjoyed Out of Chingford so much, but I think this is going to be wholly different! When I bought this book I actually thought it was about the periodic table, but on reading the blurb I am really interested to find out about Primo’s life and experiences. I get the feeling that it is going to be a very well written book, written in a slightly quirky style that partly diffuses the hard reality of a life that has seen some great suffering. Partly, but from the short reviews on the cover the book is “brave” and honestly confront and describes the facts of a life partly led in WW2 and the holocaust. Lastly, there is a review on the front cover. It starts “The book it is necessary to read next…” OK, so be it.


Book Review – Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernières

By the time I post this blog article, I will have posed the raw notes I took as I read the book. I am really enjoying making these notes. Creating them adds depth to the experience of reading and I find it worth taking the time as I read. When I was looking up some of the detail after finishing the book I also found that provides background information about Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and couple of hundred others that warrant special attention. This is similar to my list, but, like, actually good… Great stuff!

I wasn’t sure what I was going to make of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin when I started reading it. I had been told by lots of people that it was really good, and I watched the film when it came out, which was long enough ago that I have forgotten everything except that; it’s set in Cephalonia, is about WW2 and has Nick Cage in it. I was disappointed to find that Nick Cage is not in the book Only Kidding 🙂 I guess my illogical trepidation is the reason that I have not read the book, and so many others in my collection. Was it worth committing the time to read it??


I found the start of the book quite tough going, not in content, but in the way that the text is written. The whole book uses a lot of long, obscure words and I found that were a few too many of them getting in the way of a simple introduction. In general the book is very well written. I would be contradicting a huge number of previous reviews if I were to suggest otherwise. It did however take me a good few pages to decide that I was, actually, enjoying it. Later in the book it is revealed that Greeks like to use the longest words they know whenever possible. I wonder if that is why the book starts the way it does? The story does start with Dr.Iannis who particularly enjoys his words. If not that then it could be the over-enthusiastic “good start” that an author can sometimes produce, or more realistically, just me adjusting to a competent writing style? (I’m currently re-adjusting as I read The Fog, but more on that later…)

As you settle into the book the vocabulary used and the way that different languages are portrayed really draws you in. There are lots of foreign phrases wound into the dialogue and as someone who knows some French, a tiny bit of German and the basics of a couple more languages, it left me understanding enough to give me a wonderfully immersed experience while also invoking that feeling of separation that you experience when you overhear an unfamiliar language spoken. The book takes this still further via a very clever use of accent to portray a person’s mastery of a different language. This is use a few times in the book to great effect, no more so than the British agent (Bunny Warren!) who learnt some Greek at school. His dialogue is written in English, but ye olde English to indicate the difference between the ancient Greek that he learnt and the modern Greek that everyone actually speaks. As the novel progresses and Bunny learns from the locals, his dialogue becomes more and more normal. I have read other books that use accents and Phonetic speech very well, but Captain Corelli’s Mandolin manages to tell a very multilingual tale competently without ever feeling disjointed.

The whole book winds many arcs of story together, and manages to produce and well balanced progression through each that allows evil people to coexist with funny events, to tell a story of actions while allowing the story of someone’s life to grow as it would if you actually knew them. When I think of the emotional attachment I built up for Pelagia I am surprised that I identified with her as a young woman, as effectively a widow, and even as an old lady. I had been on her journey and I knew the depth of her emotions.

There are many ends to the book. The main story ends with the end of the war, but then each story line is ended and the book continues to march on into the lives of Pelagia’s daughter. I initially had a feeling of foreboding that the book might continue on past what could have been a powerful poignant ending. I have to say that my concerns were completely unfounded. In complete defiance of the risks, the book manages to deliver multiple strong endings that fall into line with each other perfectly. The actual finale of the book is relatively quite and understated, but the power of the book really hits home. There is so much story, so many emotions that have gradually built, that although the end is delicately stated the weight of emotion pulls no punches.

So in conclusion, I was going to give this book an 8/10. I appear to be settling on that as the standard rating for books I read for this blog. I suppose that means that so far my hunch was correct. Books I own are easily as good as ones I could be buying. I am very glad that I read Captain Corelli‘s Mandolin. I have proved with the review written that this book deserves more than an 8/10. It surprised me, and definitely in a good way.

Rating 9/10
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin on Good Reads

Not quite the Book Review – Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Here is my quick and dirty list of references from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. They are of limited value without the book, but there is some interesting stuff to go and find out about if you wanted to 🙂
  • 1st page of the book, about Louis de Bernieres – His first novel was called “The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts” Interesting title 🙂
  • P4 Paragraph 2 – Dr. Iannis is having trouble finding the correct voice to use in his writing. I know that feeling.
  • P5 all – This book is full of long words. Helps with descriptions, but can be harder to penetrate. (much later on there is reference to Greeks using the longest words that they can, so this may be a reason. Also the book blossoms in this regard
  • P5 – lots of Greek history:- Demeter was raped by Poseidon disguised as a horse. She gave birth to a horse and a mystical daughter who’s name was lost when Eleusinian Mysterys were suppressed by Christians.
  • P6 top – more greek history that I hadn’t heard before.
  • P9 top 1/2 of page – first use of the word fascism. “…Fascism is not merely a social and political revolution, it’s cultural as well”
  • P9 lower down – “…I want Fascist book-clubseven in the small towns…”
  • P27-29 provides a good insight into the rationalisation of a dictator
  • P40 3/4 way down – “Machian variey of materialism”
  • P44 & 45 – a comparison of communism and capitalism. One can’t exist without the other, communism is supposed to be the end of capitalism, but if the whole world was communist the global economy would grind to a halt!
  • P53 4th Paragraph – “be a good communist” and the page mentions the word “Utopia”
  • P77 Bottom – An Atheist is moved by the remains of a saint healing a mad person.
  • P81 – A description of a funny race.
  • P111 “Stalin cannot be a true communist”
  • P113 just above 1/2 way “stiffened into adamantine inflexibility” isn’t that what wolverine is made of??
  • P127/8 – “… the pleasure of homecoming was more than recompense for the pains of setting out, and that therefore it was always with departing”
  • P169 – half way down “there would be no tyrant, captain, and no wars, if minions did not ignore their conscience.”
  • P185 Persichini Polka is music of the mandolin.
  • P189 1/2 way down – “In Roumeli there was a small British team of enthusiastic amateurs” … “dropping in by parachute, using an innovative type of parachute which had supplies and radios tied into the upper chords…” Interesting
  • P209 book –  what is to be done by Lenin.
  • P210 top – capitalists. Here we go!
  • P217 – “nonetheless he had the moral authority of someone who refuses to compromise an ethical principal in the name of an ideal”
  • P220 “scientific socialism” I think this is a reference to socialism’s use of logic
  • P221 description of Mussolini’s life. Very interesting if true?
  • P222 bottom- the duce gained much notoriety by accusing Jesus Christ of copukating with Mary magdelen and by penning a pamphlet entitled “good does not exist”
  • P223  HWD – ” beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and possibly the duce is astygmatic”
  • P230 out ism’s me by about 3:1
  • The depth of knowledge of so much of how WW2 came about and played through is astounding.
  • P250 pax Romana – the longest period of civilisation known to man.
  • P265 1/3WD- communist description
  • P274 bottom – the British soldier sons like the traveler in the colour of magic
  • P285 hwd – “it’s obvious to me that ethics change with the times as science does.”
  • P289 top – style of planning in different countries
  • Beautifully poignant passages throughout
  • P345 top – “exactly the same thing happened in Italy, they all joined the fascists to see what they could get.”
  • P361 – “the tragedy was that this was yet another steep along the fated path by which communist was growing into the Greatest and Most Humane Ideology Never to Have Been Implemented Even When it Was in Power, or perhaps The Most Noble Cause Ever to Attract the Highest Proportion of Hooligans and Opportunists.” I have no idea why the capitalisation is as it is??
  • P391 – chapter 68. Beautifully poignant part of the book. Very sad and only possible because of the layers of story that came before it. “The earthquake changed lives so profoundly that to this day it is still the single greatest topic of conversation. When other families elsewhere are arguing about whether or not socialism had a future…”
  • P396 – “she discovered that her basic understanding of economic processes was Marxist, but that, paradoxically, she thought that capitalism has the best ways of dealing with the problems.” (added Marxism to the ISMs page)
  • P401 – “…Antonia’s support of Papandreou’s socialist government” must find out more about that and other times where socialist (or other more radical ideas) have been tested???
  • P404 top – talking about Antonia’s shop “handmade rugs that were really made by machines in north Africa”
  • Various pages up to and including 399-405. A description of Alexi moving from socialism that may have become conservative to capitalist.
  • Didnt get a page number, but look up about the Anti-fascist alliance
  • And finally, somwhere hidden in the book is a section about the Albanians: “one of them electrocuted himself in the penis by urinating on a transformer” ’nuff said!

I also found a great website called bookdrum that has commentaries for quite a few books that actually make sense!!

This review by The Guardian highlights that there was some backlash from the book when it first came out. Either a it was a bit to blasé with its use of characterisation, or plain wrong in the portrayal of certain groups, or maybe a bit to close to the truth?