Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Alfred A Knopf, 1988, 348pp
When I read One Hundred Years of Solitude in 1999, it made a huge impact on me. It is one of those books I will never forget. At the time I had not ever read such a book and was introduced to a new part of the world and a new type of writing; South America and magic realism. Now I am not so innocent. I've read Isabel Allende, Mario Vargas Llosa, Jorge Amado and others. Sad really, because all that experience probably lessened the impact of Love in the Time of Cholera.
Still it was a wonderful read. The story takes place on the Caribbean coast of Columbia in the 1800s. Throughout fifty-one years, nine months and four days, Florentino Ariza nursed his unrequited love for Fermina Daza while a cholera epidemic raged in various parts of the country. Fermina repudiated her promise to marry Florentino, accepting instead the proposal of Dr Juvenal Urbino, one of the richest men in the city.
While the book follows these characters for over fifty years, it is also a meditation on love of many kinds: married love, lust, passion and fidelity. Garcia Marquez can put you into the heart of every sort of character but what amazes me is his equally brilliant portrayals of the hearts and minds of both men and women.
I had a deadline for completing the book, as we were discussing it in a reading group. I would have enjoyed a more leisurely reading mode because there is much to savor. After 300 some pages of wondrous storytelling, the last 40 pages moved into an even more incredible realm, a complete surprise which left me deliriously happy.