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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.



Book 8/100: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

— feeling doubt
Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel García Márquez, Edith Grossman

Well, now that I've read this book, I have to wonder what all the fuss is about.

I prefer character-driven to plot-driven books, and beautiful writing can make up for a lot, but none of that was enough to shake me from my boredom with this book while Marquez showed off his stunning literary skills and powers of perception of the human heart while I just waited for something to HAPPEN. Because this book is not all that long but is somewhat "epic" in scope, following its primary characters from youth into old age, the whole thing reads a bit like a glorified summary, without nearly enough dialog and wholly lacking in momentum.

I think this is supposed to be made up for in how "endearing" Florentino Ariza is, but I did not find his lifelong devotion to Fernina Daza to be romantic -- to me, it wavered between being creepy/stalkerish and pathetic. He had no idea of who she really was throughout the majority of her life -- instead, he built her up into whatever he wanted her to be based on his projections of who she was when she was fifteen. Perhaps if the book had addressed the falseness of this kind of love or served as some sort of cautionary tale I would have accepted it, but it mostly turns out all right in the end, rewarding the romantics and making the realists feel squeamish and a little nauseated.

Also, for all of Marquez's delving into the intimate details of his female characters, like what kind of orgasms they had or what they thought of when they heard their husbands pissing, so much of this book reads like an indulgent male fantasy. Marquez portrays not one, not two, but THREE instances of rape as "love," with the victim longing for his or her rapist forever more after it happens. While we're on the subject, he throws around the word love far too much in this novel, so that it can stand in for practically any emotion or act at all -- rape, obsession, lust, fantasies, etc. etc.

For me, the book's redeeming quality was in its portrayal of the marriage between Fernina Daza and Dr. Urbino, particularly in its examination of the world-shifting discovery of infidelity. Still, the emotional impact of that was somewhat corrupted by Marquez's implication/belief that pretty much all husbands will cheat, even the "good" ones.

All in all, the book excused far too much horrible behavior from not great characters all in the name of "love." [Would Fernina Daza have been capable of "loving" Florentino if she ever learned that, just before her husband's death, he had been having sex (statutory rape) with the 14-year-old ward in his charge, while he was in his seventies? I know I wouldn't.]

I've been told One Hundred Years of Solitude is much better, but I'm not sure I've got the stomach or the patience to return to Marquez in this lifetime.