Well…it’s been a long time since I’ve picked up a classic book. And I must be honest. This lush and lyrical novel was somewhat required reading since it was the first pick of a new book club I am hosting at my local library. I do not choose the titles but asked the librarian why she picked this melancholy classic and it was an easy answer. Marquez just passed away in April 2014 and she wanted to honor his work with one of his books that would heighten the discussion element. Um, yes there is much to discuss and debate. So let’s begin.
According to Goodreads: “In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs–yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again.”
According to BookList: “These characters are deeply, intricately, fascinatingly drawn. The poetry of the author’s style, the humor in his voice, the joyous detail with which the plot is upholstered–all are reasons to live in this lush, luxurious novel for as long as you desire. Garcia Marquez most definitely eschews economy of presentation; he practices studied indirection, with entrancing digressions into characters’ lives, past and present. But the narrative is perfectly followable; it builds slowly, deliberately, but in no way ponderously. This is a beautiful story, beautifully told, and it should not be missed by any reader, whether he or she is familiar with the author’s work or not.”
This was my first Márquez novel and without a doubt one of the most beautifully written and stylistically complex. We’re talking sentences upon sentences of words strung together that reads as poetry giving the reader the emotional depth of what Florentino is feeling during this 50+ year obsession:
“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.”
This story can not be read quickly. It was not a page turner for me. I stated that Florentino appeared “obsessed” with Fermina and I felt that more than I did his passion for her. He at times appeared a fool and somewhat of a simpering idiot who made himself literally sick because of the fact that he couldn’t be with her. And I did have a problem with the “company” he kept to help relieve the pain he felt while waiting for her. 600+ women? Really? He would rather feel pain, literal pain and sickness, to know that he was alive. In one case by eating flowers that reminded him of her, making him violently ill. Hmm…maybe that is where my over-active brain couldn’t allow for the magical realism, that Márquez was famously known for.
The themes of “love as an emotional and physical plague” and “the fear and intolerance of aging and death” as well as “suffering in the name of love” were strongly woven throughout the entire story. I was wondering why Márquez wrote such a tormented story about love and aging, seeing as this was not his last book penned. But I quickly found out that many of his books visit similar themes (over abundant sex, passion, aging, longing, grief, despair) and when doing further research I found it interesting that he too waited almost fourteen years to marry the woman he loved. His father was considered somewhat of a philanderer in their community and much of this history provided the basis for Love in the Time of Cholera.
The literary reader in me loved the writing and gorgeous prose. The romantic in me felt it was over the top and desperate. I didn’t really feel Fermina reciprocate the sentiments. She seemed indifferent with both Florentino and Dr. Urbino. She was more of the hero to the story with her strong demeanor and rational views. The feminist in me cheered on Fermina’s dismissal of this whiney man and wanted to beat the stuffing out of Florentino for his lewd behavior. (América Vicuña? Seriously?)
While I did appreciate this classic novel, a real testament to “they don’t write ’em like this these days”, I am not sure if I will pick up another Márquez book. But I am told by many that I should read A Hundred Years of Solitude, so maybe I will. And of course, I did watch the movie version after the book and it was just ok. The number of poignant scenes that were ignored and/or omitted was disappointing. The strong cast of actors are the pull, though: Javier Bardem, Benjamin Bratt, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, John Leguizamo, Liev Schrieber, Hector Elizondo and on and on. Javier Bardem, of course, steals the entire movie with his genius transformation as quite the pathetic and kind of mentally disturbed Florentino. Maybe I shouldn’t have watched the movie because it did over simplify and weaken Marquez’s overall theme of unrequited love, passion and agelessness.
My Read-Alike books are compiled after an extensive result from NoveList, Encore and Goodreads. I chose only a few books that might appeal to many different readers. In this case: Classics, Magical Realism, Romance, Contemporary, Short Stories. Enjoy!