Thursday, June 28, 2007

'Love in the Time of Cholera'

by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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.
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.’
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.

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


  1. I can understand your reaction perfectly - he WAS creepy, and stalker-like, and the way love is portrayed in this story is not, except in the end, my idea of what love is like at all.

    And yet... and yet Gabriel Garcia Marquez managed to make me not care about any of that. The way the characters were portrayed felt so human to me that I was more than willing to overlook any of their flaws. I guess that makes all the difference - unlike you, I managed to care about the characters deeply, and that is one of the reasons why I loved this book so much.

    I liked reading your review even thought we have different opinions. And do try A Hundred Years of Solitude - it is very different from this one!

  2. I read One Hundred Years of Solitude and didn't care all that much for it. Love in the Time of Cholera has been spoken of very highly by several readers I know, but I still hesitate to try anything by Garcia again. I worry that some of what I had trouble with in the other book will be in all of his books. I still haven't made up my mind about this one. I enjoyed reading your review very much though. Great review.

  3. It's interesting how this book hits people so differently and stirs up such controversy. We each bring something different to our reading of it, and, for me, reading it at an older age and after having lived in Latin America for awhile, made a huge difference to my understanding and interpretation of the book. It WAS a disturbing book in some of the ways you've described. But it also made me think and really search for a definition of Love. I'm still thinking about it, and although the book was filled with examples of what is NOT Love: obsession, illness, selfishness...somehow Love shone through, and perhaps has more to do with the heart and courage of the writer. Just thinking, and processing...and your review gives me new perspectives to consider as I do that. Thanks!

  4. I've read 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' and it seems like he has trouble holding together a tight narrative. He likes to meander off and it is frustrating (plus all the male characters in 'Hundred' have the same friggin' name!). I'm in no hurry to read more of him.

  5. I have been putting this one off. I want to read the 100 years of solitude as well. Thanks for the review.

  6. This came highly recommended to me by an friend, so I bought a copy and it's been sitting on my shelf for several years. Just doesn't appeal to me. Wonder if I can exchange it after all this time? ;)

  7. Nymeth,
    I'd heard that it had a good ending, and the ending did soften my reaction to Florentino and Fermina, but didn't make me forget the earlier creepiness. I am glad I've read it, and I'll try 'One Hundred Years..' someday.

    Literary Feline,
    Thanks. I can't offer any comparison since I haven't read '100 Years..' Maybe watch the film of 'Love in the Time of Cholera' and see if that inspires you to read the book?

    I like your comment of how despite everything love still shone through. That gives me something else to think about too! I can see how your experience in Latin America made your connection to the book stronger. It's always interesting to see how differently we react to different books.

    LOL! Yes, I've heard about the problem of everyone having the same name in '100 Years'. I'll have to wait until I'm feeling ready for the challenge!

    I've been thinking I should read Marquez for ages so I'm glad to have finally read one anyway.

    Well, you could always trade it or something? :P

  8. Florentino is definitely creepy, but Marquez told the story so well that he held my attention to the end, which is unusual.

    I might have read the book merely for the story of how not replacing the soap in the shwoer almost led to divorce. I have read that passage out loud to my husband, to our mutual recognition and laughter.

  9. :-) Hi Nat, how life ?
    As you know I loved this book but I read it a decade ago, so I do not know what my reaction would be like now. I just finished How To Be Lost. Have you read that ? Besides that I'm reading Munro (wonderful), Englander (very good) and Coelho right now. Love C

  10. Hi Veronica,
    That was a very good incident! Spoke volumes about their relationship. Marquez did keep me reading, regardless of my overall reaction.

    Life? Busy, humid, headachy, but otherwise ok. I've heard of 'How to Be Lost' but no, I haven't read it. Do you recommend it? I plan to read some Munro (The Love of a Good Woman) soonish. Which one are you reading?


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