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Synopsis (from goodreads)
In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs–yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again.
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez was my book club’s pick for October. I have had this book on my TBR for quite a while so I am definitely glad that I finally got to read it.
The book tells the story about the lives of Fermina and Florentino. It starts with the death of Fermina’s husband and the return of Florentino. The book alternates between present and past timelines. We get to learn about how the two met. We also keep up with their lives during the years when they were apart until we come back to the present again.
What I really liked about the book was the narrative style. The chapters were long with quite a number of stories within the main story. The writing was sort of conversational. It felt like I was there with Marquez as he told me one tale after the other. For instance; we get to learn about Florentino’s lovers and these stories were quite something. I don’t want to spoil the book for those who haven’t read it yet but let me just say that Florentino had quite a taste for different types of women. He was not choosy when it came to women and each woman brought a different tale and twist to the narrative.
I really liked the two main characters. Florentino was such a hopeless romantic and seemingly a bit crazy too. His decisions at times were quite irrational but I sympathized with him most of the time. The only time that I didn’t like him was during his relationship with America, the fourteen year old girl. I liked how hopefully he always was and how much he was committed to winning over Fermina. Florentino is the only man I know to have gotten Cholera-like symptoms due to love.
“To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else’s heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movements of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.”
― Gabriel García Márquez,
Fermina was also a likeable character although like Florentino, some of her decisions seemed quite irrational. I like that she was a complex character from an unstable background. Some of her actions made me smile like her habit of sniffing clothes. She was a great protagonist.
What I didn’t quite like about the book was the fact that I couldn’t really get a sense of time or place throughout the narrative. I only got to know the timelines from a mention of 1900 somewhere in the narrative. I didn’t get a feel of the setting either. There were mentions of Paris, South America and other places that I didn’t know so that was a bit confusing. I know the story spans over about six decades so maybe this is what was confusing me.
There were also the views on sexual abuse that I found quite disturbing. I have already mentioned the relationship between a 70year old man and a 14 year old girl. There were also other instances where sexual assault was sort of trivialized and made to appear as just a norm. The perpetrators were both men and women and especially in the case of male victims, the narration made it seem more like something minor and actually fun.
Love in the time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez is not just a story about love. Love is one of the main themes but there is more to the tale than just two people falling in love. There are other themes that come up such as jealousy, infidelity and obsession. The story also doesn’t just revolve around the love lives of the two characters but we also get a glimpse of other aspects of their lives such as business and family. There are also heavy themes of sexual abuse and slavery. On the other hand, Marquez tackles other issues such as old age with a touch of humor.
If you are looking for good literary fiction then you should definitely give this book a try. It is a long book with around 1004 pages but I think it is a great read.