Sunday, February 14, 2010

At Last, My Love Has Come Along...

Book14: "Love in the Time of Cholera" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I'll be honest: with how little I am in touch with distinguished "classics" of any kind, the only thoughts I previously had regarding "Love in the Time of Cholera" was that it was the random book Sara wrote her name and number in for Jonathan to find if they were to ever meet again in the motion picture Serendipity. As such, I developed an association for the book; mainly, that it represented that once-in-a-lifetime spark of pure love that both parties would chase despite being (arguably) content with where life had led them without it. Of course, prior to reading the damn thing, I had no idea what the book was about, but I think my original association came pretty close.

"Love in the Time of Cholera" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is about love during the days that cholera was rampant. The setting is a town in Columbia during the late 1800s/early 1900s, and revolves around two main characters, Florentino Ariza (a man) and Fermina Daza (a woman). Due to influences both in and out of their control, the two young lovers cannot be together and go their own separate ways. Florentino, being the hopelessly in love romantic he is, accepts the realities of their situation but resolves to prepare for a time when he can again attempt to woo back his first love, and he finally gets his chance fifty years later.

For me, the book was a roller coaster of "I cant put it down" and "I cant wait to get to my mark so I can put this down and do something else". Generally speaking, I more often enjoy stories told through dialogue or from a first person narrative. I just find the way people talk to one another or listening to a person tell their side of a story through their own words more interesting than a third person narrative, and as you can guess, "Cholera" was mostly all third person narrative. Now, as I said, there were portions of the narrative where I could not put the book down. Marquez's story telling is so descriptive that it's incredibly easy to visualize the setting, the mood, and the characters within my head, as if I was watching it on screen or as if I was there myself. It makes me wonder if 1) that's actually what a Columbian town might have looked like during the late 1800s/early 1900s, and 2) how Marquez could describe it so well since "Cholera" was published sometime during the mid-1980s (assuming that his descriptions of the time and place are accurate). The other edge of that sword, though, is that during portions of the novel, scenes and pages and pages seemed to drag due to the heavy weight of all that narration. It felt like every single minute detail had to be stated, and at times, I didn't care for all of that.

Now, the main point of the story is unrelenting love, and in that, I felt like the story was both romanticized and somewhat realistic at the same time. It was romanticized in how sure Florentino was of his "love at first sight" that he spent fifty years waiting for another chance to express his love, but at the same time it was realistic in how both Florentino and Fermina went on living the rest of their lives, dealing with their love lost in his/her own way. Florentino, becoming a "player" of sorts, trying to suppress or replace his longing for Fermina by sleeping with a host of other women (I think six hundred sixty two was the finally tally?). In the mean time, Fermina marries a man who she could get by in life with, both realizing that they were not in love and they were not happy persay, but they could survive well enough in each other's company, and perhaps from that, love would come to be. The reality is that I'm sure there are a number of those out there who often wonder if they "settled" (though I hate to term it in so few words), and perhaps there was a greater love out there for them, but the circumstances of life did not permit them to find it and/or embrace it. At the same time, that same "what if" questioning is romantic in itself, of course taken with a grain of salt (I'm not trying to condone divorces or home wrecking here..).

All in all, "Love in the Time of Cholera" is a diligently told story of (true) love, a genre I can say I am not overly familiar with (at least not without a certain level of cheesiness). But the book won a Nobel Prize, for God's sakes; and who am I to argue with that?

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