Saturday, March 14, 2009

BOOK: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 348 pages

Orbis Terrarum: Colombia; What's in a Name: medical condition; 1% well read; Latin American Challenge

Fiction or non-fiction? Genre?
fiction; it's described as a romance at Sparknotes which I'm not sure I agree with but I'll discuss that later

What led you to pick up this book?
It's a book I've heard of in many contexts: it's an Oprah pick from a few years ago, it makes many book lists of important books, Marquez is a Nobel winning author, and it seemed like a definitive book to read for the Latin American Challenge. Marquez's other book, One Hundred Years of Solitude has more polarizing reviews and I've seen a few reviews for this one that made me think it would be a better fit for me.

Summarize the plot, but don't give away the ending!
Florentino Ariza falls in love with Fermina Daza when they are teenagers. She ends up rejecting him and marrying a doctor and Florentino Ariza swears his undying love. Fifty-one years and 622 affairs later, he gets his chance to proclaim his love to Fermina Daza again.

What did you like most about the book?
I liked the setting and the time period - turn of the last century in some unknown Caribbean location. I was interested in seeing how the two main characters would end up together at the end.
At times the writing was lyrical and would lull me along with the story, but at other times I would read a paragraph twice to understand what was being described.
I liked Fermina Daza as a character. She seemed very strong, and opinionated in a time when women were not treated very well. She survived on her own terms for the most part and the men in her life dominated her only in the ways she let them.

What did you like least?
I didn't like that the chapters had no breaks within them. Fifty to seventy pages written with no pause, changing from character to character and from one back story to another.

I didn't like the details for minor characters that would appear for several paragraphs and then not appear again, mostly in describing Florentino Ariza's lovers.

The theme of love as a plague, a sickness didn't resonate with me. I thought Florentino wasn't really in love with Fermina, rather he saw her as some ideal that he had to possess. He never really knew her and by the time he got to know her, she wasn't the same person at all that he originally fell in love with. He could better be described as a stalker, watching her from a far, waiting and setting up situations for them to meet.

The depiction of aging as the Worst Thing Ever. The first character in the book, a friend of the doctor's kills himself rather than get too old; Fermina's daughter at one point proclaims that seventy year olds making love is 'disgusting.' The description of Fermina naked when she was seventy was not at all flattering and was used to show that women do not age gracefully, where as the male was not so graphically described - he just couldn't get it up after seeing her.

Have you read any other books by this author? What did you think of those books?
No, and I think I won't need to.

What did you think of the main character?
Florentino Ariza was a nymphomaniac who justified his use of women as 'being true' to his one true love, Fermina Daza. He treated women as objects and kept a record of his conquests. One of his 'lovers' was fourteen and under his care as her guardian. When Humbert Humbert did that in Lolita he was a pedophile, but Florentino is never judged for it.

Any other particularly interesting characters?
Some of Florentino Ariza's lovers were interesting but they began to run into each other in my mind.
I liked Fermina's cousin, Hildebrande, who had her own love problems and tried to provide opportunities to get Florentina and Fermina together when they were young.

Share a quote from the book:
I seldom notice quotes from a book. Random page opening found this example of the writing:

He had to repress the trembling that was almost as old as he was when he saw the beautiful woman of his dreams on her husband's arm, splendid in her maturity, striding like a queen from another time past the honor guard in parade uniform, under the the shower of paper streamers and flower petals tossed at them from the windows.

Share a favorite scene from the book.
I liked the boat ride near the end of the book for it's discussion about how the environment had been destroyed by the progress of various river enterprises, but this little sermon came out of nowhere and seemed like a big idea to discuss that hadn't been mentioned at all.

What about the ending?
It was okay, but the ending happened at the beginning and then the rest of the book shows how we ended up there. It wasn't my type of love story.

Anything else?
The narration was third person omniscient, but a couple of times there was reference to 'us' or 'our' as a citizen of the country, which really threw me. And at another point, the narrator made mention to his/her being a namesake to a character. But there was never anything else mentioned about that. I kept reading partially to find out what that was about and I checked Sparknotes for some reference, but there was nothing there either. Very weird.

Which of your readers are most likely to enjoy this book? Why?
People who like Oprah recommended books. Readers who enjoy Nobel winning author books. Fans of Latin America writing.

Other reviews around the book blogosphere:
chris at book-a-rama,
susan b evans at well-mannered frivolity,


  1. I've read 100 Years of Solitude and a short story or two by GGM, but I tried The General in His Labyrinth and couldn't get through it. I'm still not sure what to think of the author. 100 Years took me forever to read. His writing is definitely dense and very odd. I've got Love in the Time of Cholera on my shelf and have never talked myself into picking it up. Now, I think I'm convinced it's not worth touching!

  2. I applaud you and anyone who has the tenacity to read this book or any by GGM. I bought the book.

  3. I really love this book. I get the criticisms of it, but the language just flows in GGM's books!

  4. This just doesn't sound like my type of book or author. I may give him a try eventually but who knows when...

  5. I don't know why Oprah said this was the most romantic book ever. Stalkers aren't romantic.

  6. I've never been able to get into GGM. I read One Hundred Years of Solitude on train rides to and from Cambridge, and I was determined to get all the way to the end, but I HATED it. And then I started Chronicle of a Death Foretold and gave up after a few pages. I tell myself it's at least partly to do with the fact it's in translation...

  7. I'm not sure that this book would be my cup of tea. Sometimes I like Oprah's pick and then other times, I wondering where did she get this recommendation from? I think I picked this book up for 50 cents at my library sale...thought maybe one day I would read it but I'm not sure now if I will.

  8. I've had this on my shelves for years - long before Oprah picked it. A friend said it was one of her all-time favorites and that I'd love it. I haven't had any inclination to read it, and like Bookfool, I think I'm convinced it's not worth the effort. Thanks for shedding some light on this work. Your review was quite involved for something not terribly exciting. Thanks!

  9. I totally agree with your thoughts on this book! I didn't at all feel that this was a true love story and it left me with a bad feeling. It's good that you found some positives in the characters and the writing! I know there are people who really love this book, but I am not one of them!

  10. I'm surprised to hear that this was an Oprah-book. I haven't read it, but I really like the GGM-books I have read, so your review makes me intrigued and I may have to check this one out sooner than planned... :) Thanks for the review!!

    /Eva - fellow OT-er

  11. I was really disappointed when I read this book several years ago, even though I am glad I read it. What I do remember was choosing this for a library book discussion BEFORE I read it and being horrified with how sexual it was! kinda funny in retrospect.


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