Many people have written about this wonderful book in much more eloquent terms that I can aspire to but I just had to share how wonderful I think it is. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez has been on my ‘To read’ list for years. At a party a few months ago, I was having a lovely chat with my friend Cristina, who is Colombian like Marquez himself, about the books we enjoyed and she gave me her copy to read (sorry it has taken me a while to write this review Cristina!).
Love in the Time of Cholera follows three main characters, Fermina Daza, Florentino Ariza and Dr Juvenal Urbino. Fermina and Urbino are married and Fermina and Ariza were in love once in their youth. After Urbino dies, many secrets are revealed and Marquez examines the nature of love and also ageing I think. What I thought was also interesting was that Marquez touches on the difference between true love and first love. Fermina and Ariza are separated shortly after they have first fallen in love by Fermina’s father. He does not approve of the affair and takes Fermina on a long trip. When she returns she is seventeen and much more mature than when she left. Ariza endeavours to meet her when she returns and when they do, the illusion is shattered for her and she realised she loved a dream of a man rather than the man himself and abruptly ends their contact. Fermina’s later marriage to Urbino and reunion with Arzia after Urbino’s death are both explored in detail and show that only idealised, first love is perfect I think, but that it cannot last and that true love is a lot more complicated.
Although this is not an easy book to get into because it is very unusual in its density, Marquez’s prose is graceful and the descriptions of the unnamed city where the action takes place are so evocative you can imagine the faded grandeur and the conditions in which the cholera thrives. It is also irreverent and surprisingly humourous at times. The manner of Urbino’s undignified death after such an illustrious life was strangely amusing as well as touching. This episode was a good example of how this book manages to make you feel things about certain events which seem a little inappropriate. It played with my emotions and made me question my default response to things like an accidental death.
The main message of the book is that love, like cholera, is an illness – I don’t entirely agree, but this book is a perfect exploration of that idea. I found the whole book extremely thought-provoking in so many different ways and because it turned some of my assumptions upside down, it has stayed with me long after I read the final page. That quality is, as you will know if you read this blog regularly, something that I love about all my absolutely favourite stories.