on 7 February 2005
Marquez's 'LITTOC' is the story of the love that arises between two teenagers, Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza. Over the course of the next half century, their lives follow different paths, and the love that has come into being takes on a life of its own: sometimes growing, sometimes fading, sometimes lying abandoned. As their lives proceed separately, Marquez tells the story of this love.
Those that complained that the book was slow, or that nothing happened, have a point in as far as Fermina and Florentino's lives are largely unremarkable and nothing particularly of note happens to either of them. However, this book is not their stories, but that of the love that they have brought into being, and every episode from their lives is told not with the effect on them in mind, but of the effect on this love. I thought that the idea of love as being the hero of a book was brilliantly realised, and very cleverly done. Every episode from their lives is told only to emphasise how it changes what could have existed between them, and not how it changes them as people. This makes for an admittedly slow read, but for me is the chief joy of the book. Although 'LITTOC' is in some ways a melancholy book, chiefly because of the large amount of time that passes (similarly in '100 Years of Solitude'), it is ultimately uplifting because it is about love and, despite all the pain that goes with it, you can't help feeling that Marquez thinks that love is a good thing.
Fans of magical realism should be aware that, despite being Marquez' trademark, it is largely absent in this book. It is very different in style to '100 Years of Solitude', and fans of one may not necessarily like the other. It is a slow paced book, largely lacking in traditional action. Readers looking for that should definitely go elsewhere. As far as I am concerned, it is one of the best books about love (as opposed to one merely including it) that I have ever read, and I strongly recommend others to give it a try.
on 17 February 2007
In this beautiful love story about two people over seventy Marquez explores a kind of love that may seem indecent in the eyes of some, but is in fact portrayed as the most beautiful and pure kind, "when they can expect nothing more from life". This book does not described a cliché about two young people falling in love and marrying despite the opposition of some antagonist or other, but is in fact a story after the story. The most important thing is not the winning of the maiden's heart but what happens after the maiden's heart has been won.
The author shows love as has rarely been portrayed in books before: the inevitable flaws in a marriage, the lurking infidelity, the squabbles over futilities, the pain of rejection and unrequited love, the perseverance of the heart. No perfection here, but human love with all its flaws, fears and misgivings.
Described in such detail as to bring characters to life, with passages that are hilarious as well as heartbreaking, this book is such a compelling read that you hardly notice the scarceness of dialogue and chapters. Marquez's style is very readable and comprehensive, full of rich descriptions through which you can not only see and hear what is happening in the story, but also feel, smell and taste it.
After you finish reading you may feel as if the heartwarming ending is nothing but the beginning, filling you with hope and wisdom, and may even look at love through different eyes.
However romantic this may seem, there is one catch that adds further depth to Marquez's work: the protagonist, the lovesick Florentino Ariza for whom the author creates a role of love victim, may be just the opposite. His duplicitous character is a source of constant discomfort to the reader. On of one hand we may appraise him for his perseverance and pity him for his need to be loved, on the other you are confronted with his perverse behavior: taking on an incredible amount of lovers whom he often lies to, including his 60 year younger relative placed under his guardianship by her family. Is he to be pitied, is he to sympathized with or is he to be loathed?
A note on Everyman's Classic edition: This edition contains an enthusiastic introduction by Nicholas Shakespeare, and although it's interesting to read, I recommend that you read this after you have finished the novel. The introduction gives away a large part of the story, and some of his comments are better understood once you have read the book.
on 15 September 2003
This is truly one of the most spiritually uplifting books I have ever come across. Garcia's usual breathtaking scope, covering a lifetime in what seems like amazing detail, carries the reader through the book with the feeling he or she is in a dream. Once I started the book I found myself constantly thinking about it when I was doing other things and as with many of Garcia's books the reader almost feels a sense of loss when the end is reached.
A calm, poetic journey through the tortures and joys of love that is almost a life-affirming experience, even for the most hardened cynic...
on 6 April 2009
Having made it an ambition of mine to read the BBC's top 100 books (from 2003) I found myself anticipating Love in the Time of Cholera. I had heard from various sources that it was a really good read, though as one reviewer describes it, a book that the reader has to connect with and feel more than some others mentioned. I do understand why some people think that it is such a great read but truthfully I found myself bored to tears. As it was one of the books I had most anticipated reading I felt I had to finish it, and I'm glad I did as it does improve, however the majority of the book charts the history of a couple that never was. Part of what annoyed and bored me about Love in the Time of Cholera is that it is not really a love story - Daza rejects Ariza when they are young and he just cant get over it so ends up screwing his 14year old charge when he is 60. Even this slightly shocking event is made dull and acceptable and even mundane with the novelist acting as though it is perfectly normal for a child to sleep with her supposed guardian. I thought i was getting a love story but found at the end that I really did not want Daza and Ariza to get together, they just didnt seem suited!
I know that this will go against the grain and possibly be an unpopular review due to this but I felt that a balance of opinions is necessary so that future readers dont feel as I felt when I finished it - that I was not getting it, that I was lacking in the intelligence or literary smarts to understand and see the point of this novel.
"Fermina, I have waited for this opportunity for more than half a century, to repeat to you once again my vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love." Thus does Florentino Ariza lay bare his heart to Fermina Daza after - by the former's exact count - 51 years, 9 months, and 4 days of yearning.
LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA tells of lifelong relationships and a lifelong obsession. Though the book doesn't indicate a time and locale for the storyline, it apparently takes place in a Colombian coastal town between, say, 1890 and 1950. During that period, Ariza's two opportunities to win the love of Fermina are separated by the latter's 50-year marriage to Dr. Juvenal Urbino.
I must say up front that I think this novel will be better appreciated by female readers. However, I'm giving it 5 stars, not because my testosterone level is necessarily low, but because I myself enjoy stringing words together, and author Gabriel García Márquez is a master par excellence of that talent. I especially liked his technique of stating a relatively simple fact, and then telling in glorious detail how it got that way. For instance, within the first few pages he relates that Urbino's talking parrot escaped to the backyard mango tree, then dedicates 5 full pages of text to the background of the calamity. And, after Daza makes the statement that heads this review, the next 225 pages to the paths the three principal characters travel to arrive at that point. Throughout the narrative, Gabriel's prose is lush, flowery, and richly detailed, and credit must be given to the translator, Edith Grossman.
The vast majority of the text is devoted to the Urbinal-Daza marriage, which, I suspect, follows the same evolutionary course as many others in real life, and a number of other, more transient or transitional love relationships. Regarding the bonds that tie a man and woman together, I venture that Márquez is a wise observer, as indicated by the following excerpts:
"After their first encounters they had both lost awareness of their ages, and they treated each other with the familiarity of a husband and wife who had hidden so many things in this life that there was almost nothing left for them to say to each other."
And an observation by Daza: "It is incredible how one can be happy for so many years in the midst of so many squabbles, so many problems ... and not really know if it was love or not."
LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA is the splendid creation of one of the twentieth century's most gifted writers.
on 25 June 2008
Almost as mystifying as this book itself, is the love many people express for it. Marquez has a glittering reputation and a Nobel Prize on his mantelpiece but, on the basis of this, it is hard to see why. As ever with Marquez, there is a slow pace, characters with similar names, unmentioned time slips, a dash of misogyny, and unrequited lust. Quite why this somehow translates into a masterpiece is beyond me.
The story itself, far from being a tribute to passion, is nonsensical. A young man espies an attractive girl, and becomes besotted with her in a childish, immature way. After initially encouraging him, she spurns him. Contrary to my expectations of the book, it is not a story of unrequited but still-burning passion. He goes around screwing every woman in town (including a 14-year-old), periodically expressing crocodile tears of self-pity. She marries for money and prestige, but doesn't really regret it. Eventually...well, I won't spoil it, but things change at the end of their lives.
Both characters are miserable, self-indulgent, selfish, dull and unable to generate sympathy or empathy from the reader. They have no passion except to fulfil childish whims, conceits and tantrums. This is not love, unrequited or otherwise. This is self-obsessed angst.
The only area where the book succeeds is its' descriptions of the minutiae of a long-lasting marriage - the little accommodations, adjustments and unspoken admirations that keep a relationship on an even keel.
There are characters introduced as if they are important, and never mentioned again. There are whole periods where nothing of consequence happens; these are not compensated by descriptive passages of insight, beauty or exposition - they are just meandering prose. Perhaps it is all lost in translation from the Spanish. Or perhaps it was poor to begin with.
Above all, I resent the implication by many reviewers, that anyone who doesn't like this book is some kind of Dan Brown/John Grisham-loving moron, who is incapable of reading a book where something doesn't blow up every five minutes. For people who love this book, congratulations - but don't belittle those who don't with some kind of pathetic intellectual snobbery. Great writing is writing that connects. This doesn't connect with a vast number of readers, and appears to be written as if the author didn't even try.
on 16 July 2008
I found this book lovely, most of all because it engages you so deeply with the characters, especially Florentino. Yes - it does make you wonder how you can feel sympathy for him, since he sleeps with over 500 women (!) while waiting for the love of his life, but I think it's his humanity and romanticism which make you want him to win over Fermina from the start to the end, despite his imperfections. The sweetness of his other habits, such as writing love poems for young sweethearts, and his gentle honesty, made me adore him.
The book will absorb you and give you the feeling you are living under the hot Columbian sun, smelling the smells of the town and walking in the market under the blazing heat, to the extent I almost had culture shock from my bedroom! I read it whilst ill during 1 1/2 days and it was gorgeous. I didn't want it to end, and yet I did, since I had been waiting all that time with Florentino, and found myself holding my breath as his life-changing moment approached.
The language is rich and funny, the story is sometimes surprising (for me, especially when Fermina suddenly decides their youthful madness was all an illusion, and also the very end, which was a bit too perfect, maybe? maybe not.. - don't get me wrong, I was desperate for a happy ending!!) but the book was for me a great read which I couldn't put down, or stop thinking about in between.
If you have a heart, then I defy you not to be moved by this book, especially if you can accept the imperfections of the characters and take the book as a story about love, not the people, but the love between them, which another reviewer described so well. I want to read 100 Years of Solitude now and hope I will enjoy it as much. I'm very happy to have discovered this great author!
on 16 September 1999
This was the first book of Gabriel Garcia Marques I read and I fell in love with the author's style. The story was captivating as well as the excentricity of the characters. I read 100 years of solitude just after, it is a very good book as well but the story is much more complex. I would recommend love in the time of cholera as an introduction to Gabriel Garcia Marques who is an author worth reading!
on 29 July 2003
This is a book which I came to via other people's recommendations and is one of those novels I found an absolute bore the first time I tried it and never got beyond page two (being in the throes of an adolescent crush at the time didn't seem to help). Several years later I tried again and my perseverance was rewarded many times over by the lushness of the writing, descriptions and psychological insights. This is a poetic exploration of different kinds of human love(sexual, romantic and married love) and its limitations and powers in the face of mortality. It is not an easy read as Marquez's prose style is dense, but once immersed in the book's rhythm the reader is well rewarded. The world of South America is evocatively painted, the writing is rich in symbolism and the touches of 'magic realism' often found in other South American writers such as Isabel Allende, are deftly handled.
on 25 May 1999
This is an exotic, fatalistic love story with prose so poetic it makes you want to learn Spanish and read the book in its original language. It's as well-written as 100 Years of Solitude but with a smaller (not to mention less confusing) cast that allows the author to explore character in greater detail. Writing doesn't get any better than this.