Love in the Time of Cholera was my first Marquez novel. Prior to it I've read one of his short stories, "Eyes of the Blue Dog," and one novella, Memories of My Melancholy Whores. I enjoyed both and decided to jump into one of his novels. I chose this one based on the recommendation from Book Riot's Reading Pathways, which I talked about last week. I'm not going to lie, this novel is no cake walk. I really had to focus on every page. The plot is tedious and the story meandering. But honestly, the novel is definitely worth the effort. This love story follows Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza from their youth into their old age. After quickly falling in love as teenagers, Florentino and Fermina take two very seperate paths; she weds a doctor at the age of twenty-one, he goes on to have 622 affairs, in attempts to heal his broken heart. Fifty-one years, nine months and four days after they had seen each other last, Florentino finds her again to express his never ending love to her. (Not a spoiler I promise - this happens in the first fifty pages.)
To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else's heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movements of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.
There is so much to examine throughout this novel. It explores a myriad of human emotions. It's a novel about love, loss, sex, passion, hope, and obsession. Although the chapters go on forever, there is careful attention to detail that I really enjoyed. This isn't your mushy-gushy love story, not even close. Though there are a large handful of steamy sex descriptions. When I say steamy I am talking hot, you guys, sizzling hot. But they aren't overdone, nor are they crude. Sex is depicted as a natural human desire, almost a necessity of life. It's just as beautiful as it is gratifying. Of course cholera is used as a metaphor for love throughout; the idea of love as a sickness and it's ability to distroy your body, inside and out, changing you forever. But it's more than just a love story between Fermina and Florentino. It's about the imperfectness of human nature, the complicated nature of human emotions, and the emotion of love itself.
As I mentioned earlier, this novel takes patience. Near the last third of the novel I found myself craving a resolution, some kind of end to this story of unrequited love. It seemed to go on and on and on. Then I realized maybe this is the beauty of the novel. Just like Florentino Ariza I wanted something to happen. Like Florentino, my patience began to wain. Once I thought about the idea that the emotions I experienced while reading this book mirrored the same emotions of the characters within the book, I realized the magnificence of it. It also turns out that through this tedium I really got a chance to get to know the characters and the places as they quietly unfolded.
I know that Marquez is known for his magical realism, but there were only a few instances in this novel where I noticed it. There was a scene involving a parrot in the beginning (one of my favorite scenes in the whole novel), and a scene on a boat near the end, but asides from that there weren't other instances that really stood out. Or maybe Marquez is so good at weaving the magical with the real, that I didn't even think twice about it. I believe magical realism is more prevalent in One Hundred Years of Solitude, which will be my next Marquez.
Publisher: Penguin Books, 1985