It is no secret that upon my first taste of Gabriel García Márquez I was hooked. One Hundred Years Of Solitude was an amazing and incomparable journey, and upon its finish I was filled with the desire to consume all of his novels. The local library here in Japan carried Of Love And Other Demons, so that became my second. What I was really looking for was his often praised novel, Love In The Time Of Cholera. Frequently, I hear that Love In The Time Of Cholera is his second best book, behind only One Hundred Years Of Solitude, but that it’s style is quite different. I heard warnings that if I loved One Hundred Years Of Solitude that I might not care for Love In The Time Of Cholera. Having finally finished it I can say that I understand this sentiment. I think that Love In The Time Of Cholera is an amazing book, but nowhere near as satisfying or engrossing. For any other author, Love In The Time Of Cholera would be seen as a masterpiece, but not for Gabriel García Márquez. Compared to his other work, it has its flaws, its slow points, its moments of distaste. One Hundred Years Of Solitude is satisfying in every way, but Love In The Time Of Cholera is simply good.
The book itself examines, not surprisingly, love in all its forms throughout life. How it presents itself in youth, in marriage, and death. How love matures and grows with a persons experiences, and how it can totally consume you. What I think is most important, is that it examines love as a solitary experience. Though two people might be in love, each individuals feelings, experience and understanding is solely their own. It can be one sided, it can be shared, and it can be learned. There is a stark difference between the love expressed by Juvenal Urbino, Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza. They each experience love for each other in different ways, and at different times in their lives. Juvenal treats it almost clinically, which reflects his status as a doctor. His love for Fermina exists, but his handled gently and some might argue without passion. This doesn’t make his love any less real, just different. Fermina’s love for Florentino in youth is filled with infatuation and immaturity, but for her it is real. It burns with a passion, but burns out quickly; with maturity she feels its loss. Fermina’s second love, of Juvenal, is more mature and built around comfort and sharing a life. Her and her husband share moments of passion, but there relationship is simpler, and possibly stronger. Florentino’s love is a different sort of passion, for him it is all consuming, or so he tells himself. He moves on to other women, but continues in childish way to hold Fermina as an ideal. Each person’s love is different, but none less valid. The reference to Cholera throughout the novel develops this comparison of love as a catchable illness. It is easy to see where this comparison comes from, as each of our characters carries different symptoms. There may be some similarities symptoms, but the feelings are their own, the experience of the illness will be unique for each sufferer.
My only real dissatisfaction with the novel comes from Florentino Ariza’s perspective, and the middle portion. Florentino’s middle seems consumed with his passion for Fermina being sated by his sexual escapades with a slew of random women. While this might be a common solution to unrequited love, it makes for pulpy and not particularly enjoyable reading. I would have been happy with a quick summary. The argument could be that these escapades are central to his growth as a character, but still I didn’t enjoy it. The middle section for many of the characters was lacking in progress or any real conflict, it was clear that the book was setting the stage for Florentino and Fermina’s later age, but dragged a bit with the monotony of middle age. This could reflect reality in the comfort of long lasting marriages or long lasting bachelorhood. I suppose it was necessary to the story’s build and pacing, but it was at moments painful, particularly with innuendos.
Overall I think the book is a great work, worthy of continued reading and study. It is beautifully written and has enough there to make it an overall satisfactory experience. I think the way the characters love changes will resonate with readers of all ages as it accurately reflects their own personal journey through love. The close of the novel frequently references their insecurities in love and old age, both in behavior and in the world’s judgements, but I think the point of this is to highlight the beauty in love at all ages. We the readers, sympathize and understand Fermina and Florentino’s feelings and think that their insecurities are unfounded, but were we in their place, we would likely feel the same. It is a beautiful book, with only slight flaws, I recommend picking bit up and judging for yourself. I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars.
35 Novels from 35 Countries
- Brighton Rock by Graham Greene (England)
- We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen (Denmark)
- The River Between by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (Kenya)
- The Stranger by Albert Camus (France)
- 2666 by Roberto Bolaño (Chile)
- Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia)