Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Marcía Márquez
This has been on my list of books to read for years and I am so glad I finally took the time to read it now. Love in the Time of Cholera is about a glorious and epic affair between Fermina and Florentino that is unrequited and rebuffed. Fiftey one years later Fermina is widowed through a strange turn of events, and Florentino is determined to win her back. Both have changed, gone through pain and challenges, and so his renewed quest for love asks both what happened in between and if they can love each other once more. What first caught my attention is how beautiful the language is. Gabriel Marcía Márquez seems to have taken all the gorgeous and melodic sounding words and composed them in sentences that have a lyrical elegance. This writing has inspired me to enlarge my vocabulary and has shown me the harmonic possibility within the English language. I wanted to savor the sentences, to roll them on my tongue, and read aloud these sentences with words that have been lost to the everyday user. It truly embraces the lost art of composition. Combined with these fantastic sentences is a poetic justice, love of music, and clever story telling that create an atmosphere that carries you along in a sort of haze.
The story takes its time to progress, we often read cliff hanger moments, only to be transported back in time (or to another character) to fully explore the actions that lead us to these moments. In one of these similar moments, the plot begins with this set up and so the story balances tender moments with suspense and anxiety. Chronicling the lives of these three characters and the strings that bound them together, the story features, at the same time, a whole group of quirky and memorable ‘side’ characters. I hesitate to call them side characters, because what this story does well is demonstrating the roles we have to play in not only our lives, but in others (and our perception of these roles).
In terms of characters, we gain intimate access to the lives of Dr. Juvenal Urbino, Fermina Daza, and Florentino Ariza. There were elements of each that I could relate to, but these moments were equally balanced by confounding choices. For example, I understood Fermina’s grief, but was perplexed by her choice of husbands. I could relate to Florentino’s obsessive feelings of love, but at the same time felt distanced by the extremity of his feelings. I shared Dr. Juvenal Urbino’s sense of pride, but did not understand his feelings about love. The ending was tremendously satisfying, continuing the dream of paradise and giving me the resolution I believe the characters deserved.
The combination of characters and story telling skill result in a captivating tale that explores so many crucial and essential questions we have about life and love: mortality, betrayal, guilt, and denial. All of these issues are taken up throughout their lives from before their affair, during Fermina’s marriage, and afterwards. It showcases the truths and lies that we uncover in love and in our selves. The characters ask questions of how do we love (again) and explore the suffering and misunderstandings of love. They struggle to (re)member love as they must create love once more in the shadow of their past. But by exploring love, Márquez also asks how do we know ourselves? This novel is a touching tale of (re)vision and the discovery of matters of the heart and soul throughout age that asks – can love be redeemed? As the entire story unfolds, the beauty and the pain of love is uncovered and we witness love that blooms and love that is tested to arrive at the same conclusion that Fermina makes: the most difficult thing to do is love.
If you want to pick up a copy of your own, you can get it from Amazon here.
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