Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the story of three people. Florentino Ariza who as a teenager sees Fermina Daza, falls in love and decides he will marry her. He is a poet and spends hours writing to Fermina who eventually believes herself to be in love with him. Her Father does not approve and removes Fermina taking a trip to his home country. Unknown to him they maintain a correspondence and agree to be married. On her return Fermina takes one look at Ariza and decides that he is not the man for her and marries a doctor Juvenal Urbino. This leaves Ariza heartbroken but determined that one day she would be his as Urbino was eleven years older than Fermina. Although he keeps his heart for Fermina his body is shared around 655 women in all sorts of ways enabling an examination of different types of love from a mother’s love to perverted love in the extreme. We would classify him as a stalker as he watched Fermina from afar, and at closer quarters as she lived her life with her husband and children.
The characters are extremely well drawn although I didn’t find any of them likeable; Ariza I positively abhored. The story spanned three people’s lifespans in a culture that was quite foreign to me. It was set somewhere in the Carribean. Marquez himself is a Columbian. I found the names difficult to follow as to my eye they were unfamilair names and therefore similarly sounding to my ear – this meant that I had to concentrate and often backtrack in the early stages to remind myself of who was who.
The writing was lyrical. Beautiful. However this also made it difficult to read as the dense narrative with its intricate language made it necessary to concentrate. The chapters were long (at one point on my kindle it told me the chapter was going to take me 2 hours + to read) with no passage breaks to make a natural stopping point. It meant that every time I halted I had to reread the last few pages to get back into the story. Despite this I wanted to read it. It just took me more time than a normal novel would take and it is one of the few books that I would consider reading again as I believe there was much that I didn’t take in on the first reading.
There were definite themes. Ageing being a big one. We go from teenager to into their eighties and it examines the changes that are wrought in that time, the perceptions others have to love when older and the difficulties that arise.
Another theme is love in all its forms and how what is seen isn’t necessarily what is the reality. My guess is the name of the book comes from the symptoms of love being similar to those of cholera but that may be too simplistic as I believe there is a lot of symbolism in this book that isn’t necessarily apparent on a first reading. The river, for example, is in my opinion, a metaphor for Aziza’s life. If you read it let me know what you think.
Would I recommend this book: Yes I would. It is quite different to anything I have read before (Joseph Conrad is the closest and strangely he was mentioned in it) and so beautifully written.