So you’re tired of my rants about PLDT DSL. So am I. If anything good came out of my very limited time online for the past so many days, it’s the fact that I was able to catch up on my reading. I finally found the time to read Anthony Capella’s The Wedding Officer sent by Random House Publishing. Random House sends me books from time to time, books I can review if I wish. Some of them I have; others, I didn’t. This is not a review of The Wedding Officer but just a thumbs up I guess having enjoyed it immensely.
The setting is Italy during World War II. A British officer named James Gould gets assigned to Naples to help discourage marriages between British soldiers and Italian girls. He falls in love with the Allied Forces’ Italian cook, the young widow Livia, and finds himself in a quandary because he is doing exactly what he was supposed to prevent.
I know it sounds all girly and mushy but it is not as shallow as it sounds. Critics hailed it as an unabashedly feel-good story but the description of war-torn Naples isn’t exactly anything good to feel about. It was a place where young girls turned to prostitution to survive and getting medical attention was next to impossible because army corruption and black marketeers rendered penicillin supply short and what supply there was, the soldiers had to get priority.
As a sub-story that puts some authenticity to the setting was the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 1944. If that doesn’t get you hooked, the description of rustic Italian food and cooking will simply make you drool.
The last few chapters are rather too contrived with the lackadaisical attempts at injecting the philosophy of communism to explain the role of the partisans during the war. But, all in all, Capella’s novel was quite entertaining.
In contrast, the film adaptation of Ian McEwan’s Atonement is a more tragic look at how war changes the lives of ordinary people. I haven’t read the book yet, and I am sure it is many times better than the film, but the film was good enough by itself to make me want to read the book.
Atonement is a book within a book. It is the title of the novel by Briony Tallis, one of the principal characters in McEwan’s story. It tells the story of a 13-year-old Briony whose fertile imagination led her to believe that her sister’s lover was a sex maniac. When a cousin her age got sexually molested and Briony saw a man leaving the scene, she concluded that it was Robbie, her sister Cecilia’s lover.
Robbie goes to prison and when World War II broke out, he was given the choice between staying in prison or fighting in the war. Meanwhile, Cecilia broke all contact with her family none of whom believed that Robbie was innocent.
In Briony’s novel, Robbie came home from the war and was reunited with Cecilia. In the final scene where a terminally ill Briony was being interviewed on TV decades later, she explained that the happy ending was her way of giving back to the lovers what she had taken away from them — their youth, their love and their future. Cecilia and Robbie both died during the war without being reunited.
Although the story sounds simple, the way it is presented is rather complex as scenes shift back in forth in time as the story is told from different perspectives. Emotions are intense, as are the characters. The power of the story lies in the ability to probe human emotions and intentions to explain the actions that the characters chose. It is also a commentary on social class — it was Briony’s testimony alone that sent Robbie to prison and one is left with the question as to whether the testimomy of a rather whimsical 13-year-old would have carried as much weight if her family weren’t rich and influential.
Atonement is the second of film adaptations of McEwan’s works that I have seen recently. The first was of Enduring Love about a man who was emotionally and mentally tortured by another suffering from de Clerambault’s syndrome or erotomania. It is also a very powerful story although much too disturbing for me to want to read the book.