Since I’ve started blogging again I’ve posted two book reviews (including this one) that are part of my attempt to read through the 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read list from UK newspaper The Guardian. It’s obviously going to be a life-long endeavor, and probably one I may never complete, but it helps me focus my reading on classics from literature that I have overlooked thus far.
I had never ready one of Gabriel García Márquez’ novels, and two of them are included in The Guardian’s list – One Hundred Years Of Solitude and Love In The Time Of Cholera. When I went home to Milan over Christmas, I was looking for classics that were originally written in French or Spanish that I could pick up to read in Italian translation. Though I can read and speak French and Spanish, since I’m 100% fluent in Italian, I read much more quickly in Italian. I find that language in books originally written in French or Spanish are done more justice through an Italian translation than an English one. There’s just many fewer adaptations that need to be made due to how much closer Italian is to the other romance languages.
It turns out that this particular classic – Love In The Time Of Cholera – is not one that really resonated with me. It was beautifully written and felt genuinely ‘classic’ and like it had definitely earned its place on the list of 1000 novels, but ultimately I couldn’t get into the characters or the story enough to consider it a favorite. To find out why, keep reading!
Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
Publication Date: 1985
Publisher: Oveja Negra, Vintage International
Plot Teaser (from Goodreads)
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 will do so again.
What I Liked
All the different kinds of love portrayed in the book. The central plot of the novel follows a single romance involving its two main characters, Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza, and their unrequited love. For the majority of the novel, however, not much happens between the two, and the author is left to follow Florentino Ariza’s other escapades or the romantic liaisons of secondary characters. What emerges is a portrayal of love in nearly every form imaginable. Love between fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, cousins, friends, patriot and country, casual lovers, people of a certain age and the very young. The idealist’s love for an idea, the immigrant’s love for his town of origin, the doctor’s love for his work, the rich noblewoman’s love for the past, love for pets and food, love for foreign countries and furniture. Unrequited love and passionate consuming love, fatal love and life-affirming love, rational but boring love between husbands and wives, and foolish love when getting involved in affairs. I was truly mesmerized by how many different manifestations of love the author was able to include in a single novel, and it felt like the most masterful element of the book.
The writing and the atmosphere. Gabriel García Márquez can certainly write a beautiful sentence, and he transports you back to Colombia, circa late 1800s. From the bay of the unnamed city in which our narrative primarily takes place, to its crumbling palaces, alleys full of vendors hawking every kind of good, and nearly maniacal outdoor celebrations, García Márquez really makes you feel like you inhabit the streets in which Florentino Ariza makes his solitary wanderings. The author describes every aspect of the lives of his characters, touching on both the higher level themes of politics, religion, death and of course love, and the more mundane themes of nutrition, music, domestic animals, furnishings, clothing and bathing practices. Coming from the more straight-to-the-point thrillers I’ve been reading, it was a bit of an adjustment to get used to the long winding descriptive sentences of a classic like this one, where the plot really isn’t the point. There are no huge narrative twists around every corner to keep you interested, but the prose does that on its own. You do feel like continuing to read, to remain immersed in the alluring world that García Márquez sketches for his readers.
What I Didn’t Like
The ‘hero’ and his strictly male viewpoint on love. Okay, let’s get down to it. The writing was beautiful and I really appreciated the book’s focus on love, but I could not for the life of me connect with the hero’s character or story. The book is written from a very clearly male viewpoint in which women are just shells waiting to have their lives filled by the love (and sexual attentions) of a man. Whether they are women in want of a husband, teenagers in want of an older man who can teach them the ways of sexuality (trigger warning), or widows in want of something to do in the afternoons, what they all must be craving for is male attention. Florentino Ariza traipses from one conquest to another throughout the novel, often making real damage along the way but refusing to commit or take responsibility for any of his dalliances. Infidelity and sexual escapades are treated as a male inevitability in the novel, as something men stumble into and must be understood for. I think García Márquez was trying to portray Florentino as the ultimate romantic, but actually, to a modern woman like me, he feels creepy and like a stalker in his single-minded quest to pursue Fermina Daza despite her many refusals. Let’s just say that if that’s love, I’m not interested.
The pace and ending. As I mentioned above, it’s hard to transition from an action-jammed thriller like Into The Water by Paula Hawkins (which I’ve just finished reading), into this drawn out decades-long love story in which for chapters and chapters all that really happens is that the protagonist sleeps with even more women. I didn’t skim because of the beauty of the writing, but I could have and wouldn’t have missed out on much, unfortunately. I think the author could have easily done justive to this love story in 100 or 150 pages less than he employed. Without any significant plot spoilers, I can also tell you that I was disappointed in the ending. It didn’t feel cathartic, original or surprising. In fact it felt cheesy, obvious and too easy of a way out for the author. I could see it coming, but in a frustrating way that made me feel like none of the female characters in the novel were going to be done justice. With a different ending, I think this book would still feel current and relevant, and I’m actually surprised it was written in the 1980s rather than in the 1950s.
Beautifully written book about all the shapes that love takes, ultimately let down by a clear male bias in the portrayal of women in the narrative and a rambling, disappointing plot.
About The Author
(from his Nobel Prize page)
Gabriel García Márquez was born in 1927 in the small town of Aracataca, situated in a tropical region of northern Colombia, between the mountains and the Caribbean Sea. He grew up with his maternal grandparent – his grandfather was a pensioned colonel from the civil war at the beginning of the century. He went to a Jesuit college and began to read law, but his studies were soon broken off for his work as a journalist. In 1954 he was sent to Rome* on an assignment for his newspaper, and since then he has mostly lived abroad – in Paris, New York, Barcelona and Mexico – in a more or less compulsory exile. Besides his large output of fiction he has written screenplays and has continued to work as a journalist.
Other Books To Read By The Author
One Hundred Years Of Solitude (1967)
Plot Teaser (from Goodreads)
Probably García Márquez finest and most famous work. One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of a mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendia family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, alive with unforgettable men and women, and with a truth and understanding that strike the soul. One Hundred Years of Solitude is a masterpiece of the art of fiction.
Chronicle Of A Death Foretold (1981)
Plot Teaser (from Goodreads)
A man returns to the town where a baffling murder took place 27 years earlier, determined to get to the bottom of the story. Just hours after marrying the beautiful Angela Vicario, everyone agrees, Bayardo San Roman returned his bride in disgrace to her parents. Her distraught family forced her to name her first lover; and her twin brothers announced their intention to murder Santiago Nasar for dishonoring their sister. Yet if everyone knew the murder was going to happen, why did no one intervene to stop it? The more that is learned, the less is understood, and as the story races to its inexplicable conclusion, an entire society–not just a pair of murderers—is put on trial.
Of Love And Other Demons (1994)
Plot Teaser (from Goodreads)
On her twelfth birthday, Sierva Maria, the only child of a decaying noble family in an eighteenth-century South American seaport, is bitten by a rabid dog. Believed to be possessed, she is brought to a convent for observation. And into her cell stumbles Father Cayetano Delaura, who has already dreamed about a girl with hair trailing after her like a bridal train. As he tends to her with holy water and sacramental oils, Delaura feels something shocking begin to occur. He has fallen in love, and it is not long until Sierva Maria joins him in his fevered misery. Unsettling and indelible, Of Love and Other Demons is an evocative, majestic tale of the most universal experiences known to woman and man.
The Autumn Of The Patriarch (1975)
Plot Teaser (from Goodreads)
One of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s most intricate and ambitious works, The Autumn of the Patriarch is a brilliant tale of a Caribbean tyrant and the corruption of power. From charity to deceit, benevolence to violence, fear of God to extreme cruelty, the dictator of The Autumn of the Patriarch embodies the best and the worst of human nature. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the renowned master of magical realism, vividly portrays the dying tyrant caught in the prison of his own dictatorship. Employing an innovative, dreamlike style, and overflowing with symbolic descriptions, the novel transports the reader to a world that is at once fanciful and real.
Have you read Love In The Time Of Cholera or any of Gabriel García Márquez’s other books? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.
You can also read my reviews of other 1000 Novel Series titles on the blog including The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Villette by Charlotte Brontë, The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall byAnne Brontë, The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins, Bleak House by Charles Dickens and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.
Here is a picture I posted on my Instagram of the Italian edition of the book I read.
One more photo of my gorgeous Italian edition of Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. You'll be able to read my review on the blog tomorrow morning! #bookreview #bookblog #bookblogger #bookstagram #books #bookworm #booksarelife #reading #readingisfun #readingtime #readingisfundamental #readingissexy #ilovebooks #booklover #bookish #bookgram #bibliophile #loveinthetimeofcholera #gabrielgarciamarquez #classics
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