Love in the Time of Cholera


Love in the time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Set in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez tells the story of the love triangle between Fermina Daza, Florentino Ariza and Juvenal Urbino which endures for fifty years, revealed through a flashback from childhood to old age.
As children, Fermina and Florentino have a brief romance after which Fermina ditches Florentino when she realizes that she is “loving an illusion”. She leaves Florentino obsessed with Fermina and lovesick. In his unsuccessful attempts to alleviate his all-consuming longing for Fermina, Florentino engages in 622 affairs.

Fermina goes on to marry Dr.Juvenal Urbino a high-flying doctor and on the face of it, they make the perfect couple.

Fifty-one years, nine months and four days after Fermina’s wedding Dr. Juvenal Urbino dies leaving Florentino free to make his declaration of love to Fermina again. Will she accept second-time around?

My thoughts on this book:

I think I share a love/hate relationship with this one. The book starts off describing the daily routine of an elderly Dr. Urbino and Fermina on the day leading to his death. I can’t describe how slow this section of the book was. The first 80-100 pages rambled on endlessly until I was bored to tears.

Once Dr. Urbino passes away and the flashback starts, things get a bit more interesting. The teenage love story between Fermina and Florentino is insipid, but I loved the chronicle of their lives after they move on from the relationship.

Florentino is an eternal romantic in love with the ideal love (Fermina). In order to forget Fermina he has numerous affairs with women and seems to love all of them without committing himself solely to any one of them. He makes an unusual but rather endearing Casanova until I came to a rather unsavory love affair towards the end of the novel where he seduces a 13-year old girl who is his ward.

Consider the following description of the seduction:

She was still a child…with braces on her teeth and the scrapes of elementary school on her knees…, and he cultivated her with a slow year of Saturdays at the circus, sundays in the park with ice cream, childish late afternoons, and he won her confidence, he won her affection, he led her by the hand, with the gentle astuteness of a grandfather, toward his secret slaughterhouse.

Stomach-churning? no? how about the fact that at this point in the story Florentino is about 60 odd years old!

Even more harsh is his abandonment of her, and her eventual suicide.

This section was really difficult and disturbing reading for me. I just could not get past the fact that no matter what the cultural background, romantic nature, the historical time period, fear of aging, etc., Florentino is a child molester. Even more disturbing was the fact that he pays absolutely no price for his heartless behavior.

Apart from this incident, I did not have any issues with the book. I think I did not have the best translation because I did not really see any signs of magical realism that Marquez is famous for. But, then this could have been lost in translation, I suppose? Some aspects of this book do not look like they lend well to translation.

However, I have to grant that Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a master writer. I mean anyone who is able to craft a story in which the protagonist beds 622 different women over the course of his life and make it seem like something so much more than simply sex really can write!

Btw, there is a movie out based on the book starring Javier Bardem as Florentino.

The Movie Poster

The Movie Poster

I think I could watch a couple of hours of him seducing women on screen 🙂 . What about you guys? Anyone seen this movie? How is it in comparison with the book?

17 Responses
  • Mypunchingbag
    May 9, 2012

    Also, I didnt like the fact that florentino is referred to as a ‘hunter’ when he goes to pick up women to sleep with. After seeing him as a hunter, it is difficult to believe he actually loved any of those women. But inspite of the weird characters, I did think the language was very poetic and the book beautifully written 🙂 I do wish though Florentino’s character made more sense!

  • Layman
    February 9, 2010

    Finished the book.
    Don’t know what to think about it. But man! Can that fellow write a loong story!

    • Nish
      February 9, 2010

      @Layman: it’s not a particularly long book, but yes it moves slowly 🙂

  • pieces of me
    December 11, 2009

    Interesting, because I loved this book, although the part about the Dr. was slow for me too. I did not see him as a child molester? I am writing a paper for school right now on his obsession with Fermina.

    • Nish
      December 11, 2009

      Well, I guess for that day and age, he would not be a child molester.

      But to me, the age difference between the 2 was pretty gross, and the fact that he was an authority figure charged with her care, made me really angry.

      When he hears the news of her death, his reaction is very mild.

      These things bothered me, yes.

      I would love to read your review on this book.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog 🙂

  • Layman
    November 21, 2009

    I’m new to this blog.

    Loved your review and was kinda relieved. For the first 70 – 90 pages, I was wondering ‘am I the only one who is not able to enjoy the beauty of Marquez’s writing’? But once the romance (flashback) started it got a lil interesting. Still on it… am a slow reader 🙂

    • Nish
      November 21, 2009

      Thanks for visiting and commenting, Layman. Yes, this book does take a lot of time to finish.

  • Kathy R (Bermudaonion)
    November 4, 2009

    This does sound like it may be a difficult book to read. Having lived in Europe for a little while, I do know they view sexual things differently than we do, but that doesn’t mean I want to read about it.

    • Nish
      November 4, 2009

      Yes, it seemed to me an unnecessary add-on and spoilt my opinion of Florentino who otherwise seemed to be a perfectly charming and sweet man. But, you are right…other nationalities might not find it quite as bothersome.

  • Shona
    November 3, 2009

    I was also of similar opinion about this book. I must have put it down around 6 -7 times before I went ahead cos of the slow beginning.

    • Nish
      November 3, 2009

      It’s not bad once you get past the first 100 pages, but somehow I would not highly recommend it.

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