Monday, May 2, 2011

Completed: Love in the Time of Cholera

Dear Jenny,

I finished Love in the Time of Cholera a couple of weeks ago, but I've been lame about posting. For the most part, it was exactly what I expected from Gabriel García Márquez -- beautiful language describing well-drawn characters in a lush, epic story.

Generally, I loved this book, although I have a few issues. I was unsurprised by one annoying thing, surprised by one particular thing, and there's one thing that I flat-out despise (I won't go into details about it, as it's a spoiler and I figure you might read it, but I'll talk a little bit about it in vague terms).

Back-of-the-book Synopsis:
"In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermino 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."

Who's That Now?
The annoying thing that I was unsurprised by was my confusion keeping the character names straight. This issue was not nearly as bad as 100 Years of Solitude where, I swear, everyone shared 2 out of 3 of the same names (thank goodness for the guide in the front) but I did struggle for awhile with "Florentino Ariza" vs. "Fermina Daza". I know those names are not the same but, for me, they look a lot alike. Then I vaguely remembered some long-lost foreign language knowledge where "o" is masculine and "a" is feminine (right?) and I just keyed into the last letter in their first names. Things were better after that, but it's still kind of annoying to have to focus so much to figure out who we're talking about.

Okay. I was surprised by the sexy-ness. I shouldn't have been, because the back of the book clearly states that Florentino Ariza has 622 affairs while he is waiting for his "true" love, but I didn't think they were actually going to get into too much detail. I mean, it wasn't super-graphic, like anatomically or anything, but still... there were some moments where I thought, "Yeah. I can't really recommend this book to, say, my mother-in-law" (unless I warned her first: "It's kind of sex-y.") The sexy-ness didn't kill me -- I was just surprised by it.

And My Despise
There are some things about Florentino Ariza that I really found myself hating. First of all, that he was so darned oblivious that while he was "waiting" for his true love, he was actually falling in love with (and breaking the hearts of) (And! Having his heart broken by!) all of these scores of other women. (Seriously. Some of his affairs last 10+ years.) He justifies this, and the way that Gabriel García Márquez writes it all, you find yourself buying into his particular brand of justification (kind of like Tony Soprano -- his morals might not have been your morals [or what anyone would really call "moral"], but he had his own moral code that he adhered to, so it was all right). That one, I can forgive.

The other, however, I really struggled with. Again, no spoilers, but he treats his final lover very, very poorly, as he is distracted by his "true" love. It made me kind of hate him, even though I had been pulling for him the whole way. It was a huge hurdle for me, in fact. I was almost unable to remain on Team Florentino. I overcame it, but it was tough.

But I guess that's evidence of an amazing author: Gabriel García Márquez has written a basically unlikeable character -- Florentino Ariza is unattractive, has a questionable moral code, and has a ridiculous, all-consuming obsession with something that can, quite possibly, never be. Oh, he also has life-long constipation that he treats with near-daily enemas (TMI!) -- and yet, and yet... you want him to achieve what he desires.

My Favorite Parts
Of course, the language. It's amazing to me that these books are translated -- I have an immense respect both for García Márquez, as well as for the translator! (Edith Grossman, if you're curious.) Florentino Ariza writes beautiful love letters throughout his life and I just love that part of the book -- imagining the letters being written, sent, delivered, read, pored over, hidden, etc. The letters are an additional character in the book and I loved it.

Even though I've mostly babbled on about Florentino Ariza here, Fermina Daza's character is beautifully written and the story of her relationship with her husband is brilliantly epic. The story of her life (particularly her marriage) is at times heart-breaking and, at others, inspirational. In other words, it's very real.

Finally, the end of the book. I hate it when a book takes you on an epic ride and then the author doesn't know how to end it, but Gabriel García Márquez totally sticks the landing. Definitely the kind of book that you finish up and then have a long pause to take it all in. (Again, pretty much exactly what you'd expect, right?)


1 comment:

  1. K,

    I swear I've read this book, and yet reading your review has made me realize that I must have just thought I read it (I definitely *owned* it at some point). It doesn't sound familiar at all, but it does sound really good.

    I'm not surprised by the name-mixing-up in the book. I recently read "Chronicle of a Death Foretold" and remembered having similar issues. The writing is so beautiful, though.

    I'm cracking up about the digestive problems of poor old Florintino. I wonder if that's some sort of symbol for his hopelessly blocked up feelings for his long lost love? But you know what, if so, that's kind of gross!


    PS You know you're getting old when the idea of someone having 622 love affairs just sounds sort of exhausting rather than romantic, dashing, and sexy. Heh.