Book review: Love In The Time of Cholera

Posted by Bel. The time is 11:20am here in Wellington, NZ.

This book is a romance of the sort of absurd proportions that it seems only the hot-blooded South Americans can get away with.

Florentino falls forever in love with Fermina and when after a secret engagement, built up through barely a spoken word, she arbitrarily changes her mind, and he cares not. He waits throughout her 50 year marriage to the dashing Urbino and professes on the day of his death that he loves her still and hopes that now they have a chance to be together.

Perhaps it's called Love In The Time of Cholera because it makes the reader feel a bit ill?

Oh, I jest, I jest. But you do have to be in the mood for this kind of novel. And you have to be willing to buy that someone would stake their heart on someone they barely know and who rejected them. Yet this is the tale of undying love - plus of course, of all the action he gets during those intervening years. (Red hot Latin lovers, as I was saying.)

Plot aside, Garcia Marquez's writing is just amazing. Many a pencilled line was drawn under phrases which stopped me in my tracks. (Unfortunately my copy has already been loaned on, otherwise I would be quoting verbatim right now.) His is a style that which you will either love or hate, with long sentences (paragraphs, and chapters) that may well put you off - or you will be swept up and oblivious to the lack of structure in this way.

The focus of the book shifts from character to character, in time and location, with lots of flashbacks and flashforwards, covering a several parallel lifetimes' events in great detail. It's not until more than a third through the book that we see things from Fermina's perspective.

Until then, her dramatic actions seem very arbitrary and hard to comprehend. Her character is just a shallow thing, adored by the men for no good reason other than her beauty (especially as she is loved from afar by Florentino, who doesn't even really know her). But once we get inside her mind, she is easier to admire. Essentially, however, this is more a tale of obsession and of love for love's sake.


Whatever you do, do not, repeat: do not watch the film version of this book. The movie Love In The Time of Cholera may look like it might be good, with its reputable cast and decent director, but it is NOT. It is AWFUL. Even if you think "well, I hate long-winded writing and I'm not much of a novel reader anyways, but I feel like a nice mushy romance - let's get this out of a Sunday afternoon" - STOP! Resist! Do not do this to yourself. Please.

And if there is any chance of you reading the book, I double my pleas. Just avoid the film, at any costs.

That is all.

Love In The Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Sort of recommended.
English translation published 1988. Set in Columbia, late 19th C - 1930s.
#44 from 'The List'

2 thoughts on “Book review: Love In The Time of Cholera”

  1. oh bel, i was afraid you would hate this. it's such a delight! ridiculous, sprawling, mushy nonsense that is just right! no one else could have written this, and about the movie, let me agree. i couldn't get through to the end (i ALWAYS get through to the end) it was so awful. sigh, they need to leave the rest of his books alone too. I was told they are making a movie from 100 hundred years of solitude and I am like: whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? never! and how?

    in conclusion: books win, especially this one.


  2. I didn't hate it - in fact, there was lots of it I loved, and I cannot deny it was beautifully written. I think I just found it hard to emotionally invest in the characters, so couldn't buy into the story - and would have enjoyed it so much more otherwise!

    I did my mum's trick with the movie, which is fast-forwarding through, and playing little chunks each time it looks like it's getting interesting.
    Sometimes this can help you get through a lull, other times you're just prolonging the agony...