Translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman
WINNER of the Nobel Prize in Literature, 1982
Fiction, 1985 (in Spanish), 1988 (English translation)
Penguin UK, paperback, 344 p.
(Book #25 for 2007, Book #4 for the Banned Book Challenge, Book #5 for the TBR Challenge)
Fifty-one years, nine months and four days have passed since Fermina Daza rebuffed hopeless romantic Florentino Arizo’s impassioned advances and married Dr. Juvenal Urbino instead. During that half century, Florentino has fallen into the arms of many delighted women, but has loved none but Fermina. Having sworn his eternal love to her, he lives for the day when he can court her again.I’m having a hard time putting my thoughts together for this one. I thought it started really well, but it lost some momentum along the way for me. I still can’t decide whether to feel sorry for Florentino Ariza, disgusted, or consider him just plain pathetic. Is his undying hope admirable or deluded? I couldn’t keep track of all the women in his life, and I got bogged down, and lost interest in the details of his numerous exploits. I can see why it’s regularly on banned/challenge lists, with all the references to sex and especially the underage relationship. The ending did redeem the story for me somehow, especially since even though I knew it was coming I wasn’t particularly rooting for that ending, but it was written very sensitively.
When Fermina’s husband is killed trying to retrieve his pet parrot from a mango tree, Florentino seizes his chance to declare his enduring love. But can young love find new life in the twilight of their lives?
‘It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.’
It certainly is a story of love and obsession, and love as illness, but I guess I couldn’t get past Florentino’s general creepiness and stalker-like behaviour, and I never really came to care about any of the characters, although if I had to choose one it would probably be the good doctor, which perhaps further explains my disappointment. They all seemed so selfish in their own way. I suppose this is a good evocation of real life but it left me not really caring. I’m a little sad though because I had hoped to like this book more than I did mostly because it's a favourite of some of my favourite bloggers. (I wish I could've had the same reactions as Robin or Nymeth). Is it one of those books that I've just read at the wrong time in my life? Regardless of my mixed feelings toward the story, the setting was splendid and I am curious to see how the book translates to film. This was my first time (finally!) to read anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and I have One Hundred Years of Solitude here to try some other day.
Final verdict: Didn’t hate it but I wasn’t moved.
My Rating: 3/5
'He was still too young to know that the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.'Also reviewed at:
A Striped Armchair