Audie Award Finalist, Classic, 2014 From the Nobel Prize-winning author of One Hundred Years of Solitude comes a masterly evocation of an unrequited passion so strong that it binds two people's lives together for more than half a century. 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 does so again. With humorous sagacity and consummate craft, Gabriel García Márquez traces an exceptional half-century of unrequited love. Though it seems never to be conveniently contained, love flows through the novel in many wonderful guises - joyful, melancholy, enriching, and ever surprising.
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A passionate storyteller and a Pulitzer Prize winning author, Márquez warned those that wanted to define this book as a great love story not to fall into his *trap.* He doesn't set out to define love in Love in the Time of Cholera, instead he tells about the individual relationship his characters have with love throughout their lifetimes, how they express love, and how they experience love in all it's incarnations. Rather than define love, he almost makes the argument against defining love, showing that it is flowing and adaptable, and dependent on a myriad of variables. His characters experience lust, desire, passion, stability, all in the name of love -- that *malady for which there is no cure.* Love is not an emotion, but the destination in this novel.
Marquez's style of magical realism is perfectly matched to the period and characters in this Caribbean seaport village at the turn of the 19th century, where the local folklore and superstitions walk hand in hand with social and political reality. Three contrasting characters are central to the story and form the love triangle: Fermina Daza, the young local beauty; the older Dr. Juvenal Urbino, practical, stylish and much respected in town; and the hopeless romantic, and struggling workman Florentino Ariza, who provides most of the comedy due to his philandering ways and insistence that he is still a virgin in his heart -- which he also claims "has as many rooms as a whorehouse." Each has a singular conception of love. Márquez captures their conflicted spirits, as they age and adapt to their changing situations and environment, brilliantly. There's more comedy than romance in this bittersweet novel -- it's more about "emotions in motion" (as Mae West once said) than Love.
I understand the discrepancy in ratings. My own experience with Márquez got a shaky start when a friend (a literature major) handed me the book and said I would love it -- and I didn't. For at least 80 pages I struggled with the general foreignness and languid pace, and then it seemed as if I was suddenly tossed into a crazy tornado of passionate characters, sex, and intestinal problems. It seemed like a delirious opera takeoff of Don Juan. Whether timing or my own limitations (reading Spanish was a hurdle itself), the book was difficult for me to get into, but ultimately -- and several years later -- rewarding; it took me 3 times to finish this book, which I came to love. The translation is wonderfully done, and this narrator gives a great performance that enhanced the story without interpreting the characters for me.
There is a natural and unforced flow in Márquez's writing, that fits easily into your head, both because of his artistry and because of the emotional recognition in his stories. Even incorporating complex themes, his sentences sparkle with clarity and humanity. An Audible questionnaire asked which authors members would like to see available at Audible.com. I answered Gabriel Garcia Márquez, so I was thrilled to see some of his books on the menu (100 Years of Solitude would have been my choice for the first book, but I noticed it is coming soon). Considered a classic and one of the greatest books written, but I would limit my recommendation to those that want a beautifully written, bittersweet story to linger over and savor.
I find very little love in this book. A young person might regard it as romantic. I see much which is the opposite. (I hope the following doesn't contain spoilers?!)
As adolescents, Florentino and Fermina fall in love. 'In love' is not the same as love. Her father has different ideas and wants what HE thinks is best for her. He doesn't consult her feelings, and acts in an autocratic, paternalistic manner which is probably indicative of the times. In some ways, this could be regarded as high-mindedly selfish.
Florentino undoubtedly sees himself as a poetically romantic hero who suffers his self-inflicted romantic martyrdom for 50plus years for the sake of his "love". I see in him a needy, obstinate and obsessive stalker who also wants his own way, regardless of the cost. At the same time, he's obsessed with sex, and uses up every female who allows him within spitting distance, to the point of paedophilia. His romantic martyrdom requires no honourable abstinence, no self-negation. His emptiness cries out to every lover in turn, and he "loves" them all, if to a greater or lesser extent.
At no stage does he show any acceptance of Fermina's choice in marriage, or appreciation for her apparent happiness. This would be an indication of a love less false.
Only in old age, when his tormented self-convincing 'love' for Fermina settles down into companionable affection is there any sense of realness about it.
Fermina's husband, by comparison, seems to have been the better choice after all, as he does leave one with a sense of his true love and caring.
I grew tired of listening to Florentino's sexcapades for the greater part of the book. Of all the women who nurtured and indulged him, but actually meant very little. It got very stale. It also got sickening, when he resorted to molesting a girl who smelled of "nappies", 60 years younger than himself, of whom he had guardianship. That begs a long-term prison sentence. We are not amused.
I wonder if all the corpses scattered throughout the book are symptomatic of all the bodies he used, abused, and left lying in the dust?
I'm not sure I would recommend this book to anyone. I can't say I actually enjoyed it.