Liz's Reviews > Love in the Time of Cholera

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
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Jan 07, 08

Read in January, 2008

** spoiler alert ** I feel suspicious about the fact that I didn't fall for this book the way Florentino Ariza fell for Fermina Daza. I am compelled to blame my lack of appreciation on poor reader comprehension rather than GGM'S writing, because only one of us won the nobel prize and I'm pretty sure it wasn't me. However, I'm no idiot either, so I'll at least take the liberty to explain my grievances:

1. As a synesthete, I found Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza's names to be WAY too similar. They look the same; I kept getting them mixed up! I think it was unecessary to pick the two most F, vowel, R, N and Z laden names ever for use in this one story.

2. The narrator kept making very definitive, bold claims that 3 pages later turned out to be completely untrue. For example (not real quotes) "This particular bed-fellow was the closest thing to love that Florentino Ariza ever experienced apart from Fermina Daza." Turn the page, now talking about a brand new lover, "Now, as it turns out, THIS particular bed-fellow was actually the closest things to love that FA experienced apart from FD." Next chapter, another new lover "Okay, SERIOUSLY, this is the one this time"... etc. Similar broken promises were made about various other topics. Perhaps this was done on purpose to demonstrate the fickle nature of life or love or something like that, but for me all it did was make me yell at the pages, scolding the narrator for being a big liar.

3. Florentino Ariza = mid 70's, Young Girl placed in his "care"= 14. It's just not okay. (P.s. She later kills herself because he ruined her life and stole her innocence, and his only reaction to it is that he has a bout of indigestion while lying in bed with the woman he left her for...what a swell guy). P.s. he also kinda kills another woman...the one on whose stomach he writes with red paint and her husband murders her when he sees it.

4. The whole premise of the book is the waiting...FA is waiting to finally be with FD. And when the wait is over, I don't feel like there's any reward. Nothing between them is all that magical...yeah they have fun on the boat, sure the fun is a little subdued because of their age, etc...but ultimately I don't understand what the point of all that waiting was for when he seems to have just about as much a connection with FD as he had with any of the other 621 ladies over the years. I I stated in point #2, the ABSOLUTENESS of this book is what really holds it back for me. He says he absolutely loves FD, better than the rest, into eternity...he says this, but the reality is actually quite different. The ending is the same kind of that boat really going to sail up and down the river FOREVER? No. It's not. So why cheapen it with the gross exaggeration...just say "until we die" or "until somebody makes us stop"... it doesn't sound as cool but it means more.

In summation, it wasn't a horrible book but there were a few things that made it less than perfect. The writing really redeemed it, however, and made the experience pleasurable overall. An example of this is the detail GGM throws in about Urbino drinking chamomile tea, any then rejecting it, saying that it tastes like windows. Everyone is perplexed, thinking he must be crazy. Then they taste it themselves: Yup. Windows.
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Linda Dear Liz,
You said it all. I read this a year or two ago and it seemed to take as long as they did to get it on. Since we're both synaesthetes (I use the snobbier spelling) I too got terribly confused with their names and in fact kept mis-matching the syllables as I read silently, to the point of distraction, in spite of having majored in Spanish in another life. I've even confused this story with his other one (or maybe they're the same story) about the man who falls down dead in his courtyard whilst trying to coax a bird out of the tree. The author does have a sense of humor.
I enjoyed your review at least as much as I did GGM's story, so keep reading...and writing!!
Love, Mom XXX

Jennie I happened across your review because I was searching to see if anyone actually liked this book. I am about 3/4 way through it and I will finish it but I am dissapointed. Despite the few good moments here or there I find it very slow reading. I am having the same problems with issues you mentioned in your review. The name similarities were tedious.
Just thought I would comment - I agree!

Kristen Hi Liz,

I just finished this book today (it took me almost 4 months, which is VERY long for me!). I have to agree with many of the things that you said with the exception of the names being too similar. If you have read "One Hundred Years of Solitude", that is even more confusing to the reader, as sons are named the same as fathers, and a timeline is even needed to curb the confusion. I feel that Marquez named these two characters similarly in this book to keep the tie between them subconsciously. You can't help but connect the fact that these two are linked together forever.

I was disappointed in this book, especially after reading "One Hundred Years..." This book really did feel like a lifetime, so in that sense it is successful- but now I feel exhausted! Everything was delayed. When Florentino Ariza finally starts visiting Fermina Daza in old age, I was so ready for the book to end- but then he has an injury and it's even more delayed. Oivay! Just get on with it!!!

I am also disappointed that Dr. Juvenal Urbino was a such a macho, cheater-type. It just made me feel like Fermina Daza wasted most of her life with a man who she didn't really love, and who didn't really respect her. They have to keep reiterating that she was "happy" but was she really??

I thought this book would leave me feeling like love conquers all, but it left me feeling bitter for both the protagonists.

Penny Can't help joining a thread of synesthetes. I found the names not only similar (deliberate by GGM, I'm sure) but also really unattractive colors: a metallic orange for both of them. Juvenal Urbino is hardly better: yellowy gray. Can't expect GGM to know my color scheme though.

I agree that Florentino is far from perfect (the fate of that 14-year-old is horrific) but I think GGM knows that perfectly well. Why should he love Fermina more than the other 600+ women? Isn't he really just in love with the idea of himself as a romantic and gives himself permission to treat all those other women as disposable? I think that Florentino is convinced of his own romanticism, but I don't know that Garcia Marquez agrees with him. He shows us too much.

Seeing its Garcia Marquez, I DO think that that boat may be going up and down the river forever.

message 26: by Owen (new)

Owen I didn't read it, but it's my opinion that reading a bad book is too much work and not worth the hassle.

Do synesthetes have trouble reading certain things? Does it make math easier or harder? Could it be a learning disability? I never thought of it as such until I read your review. What say you?

message 25: by Lee (new)

Lee I have to agree with some of the comments about the relationship between Fermina and Florentino, but one of the redeeming features of the novel was the wonderful humour, which was sly and surreptitious, and then hilarious. One particular episode in particular really ticked my fancy: when the doctor husband came out of the bathroom while Fermina was pretending to be asleep, and commented that he had had to bathe for a week without soap. The resulting rift between Fermina and her husband was just wonderfully done, and was too close to home for this reader! There were many more examples, and his human observation skills completely overcame the plot.

Penny Hi Owen,

Having synesthesia is like getting a color TV after having one in black and white. Comprehension and everything are the same, but for some reason, words are in color (and some have a certain texture or flavor). I don't know why. It enriches my sense of the world and is a great mnemonic device -- usually when I'm trying to remember someone's name, the first thing that comes to me is the color and I can work my way back from there.

I didn't know synesthesia was unusual until I saw some show on it in college. I had assumed that everyone perceived the world this way. Asked around and it turned out to be uncommon.

Because synesthesia is my trick way of remembering names, it can be an advantage when names look as different from each other as possible. Florentino and Fermina are no help in that (though I know perfectly well who I'm reading about while I'm doing so). And of course, I'm not going to think the names are pretty because of my own particular color scheme. I wouldn't name a child either name, but beyond that, no harm done with synesthesia.

And my thanks and apologies to Liz for filling her comment blog with dissertations on synesthesia! I don't know if you and Linda have similar experiences. Actually, I don't think I know any other synestheses.

Jennie My daughter (now 20) announced to me a year ago that she sees numbers and letters/words in colors and shapes. I had no idea and I didn't even know it existed or there was a word for this until I saw a show on Autism/Asberger's. My daughter was an honor student and graduated 10th in her class of over 800 students. She excels in physics and chemistry but now she is majoring in asian language studies, she learns foreign languages very quickly. This is very interesting to me. I have always seen numbers/letters/days of the week/months in spacial references to one another and in shades of light or dark, that is so hard to explain. I understand this is another form of Synesthesia. Just thought I would add my 2 cents for what its worth. =)

message 22: by Liz (new) - rated it 3 stars

Liz Penny,
It's okay! I'm happy to have generated a little buzz on the topic! Linda (my mom!) and I have similar experiences in terms of how the colors are more "felt" than "seen" (I think of it in terms of each letter having a "personality"), but our alphabets are totally different. Mine is mostly earthy tones, so it scheeves me when she mentions her Bright Pink Letters (Yuck!).
In all of my 23 years I have only personally known 4 synesthetes (interestingly: just one of them male). It is indeed quite rare!
Owen, the times when it could be interpreted as a "disability" are when I get names mixed up. I was in a class once with a "Nicole" and I kept calling her "Victoria" because the names look very similar to me (a light lavender color with trails of sparkling white and yellow at the end). Other than that, the only negative thing about synesthesia is when rude, ignorant people accuse you of "making it up."

Penny Really! I've never been accused of making it up. Then again, I don't talk about synesthesia that much, as it's kind of like hearing somebody tell you about their dreams. Its all about the inside of their own head and gets old fast. If it comes up I'm a synesthete, people want to know the color I see their names in, and then we move on.

Must have been difficult to explain to Nicole how that name could be similar to Victoria.

I agree with you, no bright pink for letters.

message 20: by Owen (new)

Owen On the odd occassion, when someone cuts me off in traffic, I see red. I guess that doesn't count.

Maricela I read your review minutes after i wrote mine and it seems we are on the same page. I'm glad someone else feels the same way. Since Gabriel Garcia Marquez is so well known world wide and worshiped I thought I was the only crazy one that thought his writing was difficult to follow and a tad overrated.

Danielle Liz, thanks for your comments. You put my dislikes of the novel into words very well. Incidentally, for all you synesthetes who commented, you might enjoy reading "The Beautiful Miscellaneous" about a boy who develops synesthesia after a head injury. It's interesting.

message 17: by Helen (new)

Helen Gosh that was a great review. Thank you for making me feel better than I have not read it.

Jennifer i am a bit late- but i feel florentino did have affairs.but you also have to remind yourself in this period of time-young women were married to men older than they were[for the sake of stabled relationships-money wise:] or they also had relationships younger than we do now in society.

florentino did have more than 600 affairs-but it seemed that when he remained a virgin he meant his heart and unconditional love for fermina...

and as far as the married woman he had an affair with-it almost seemed he was willing to forget the desired love for fermina and start newly with that woman-
but as we see-she gets murdered...
is that fate? or was that a chance?
was she supposed to die because she cheated?
or was she supposed to die because he wasnt supposed to forget fermina?

Ginger Liz,
Spot on review. I couldn't keep their names straight to save my life and had to keep going back to see who was doing whom! It drove me crazy and I just wanted it to finish... and of course it didn't cuz they are still going up and down the dam river! O well. Glad I wasn't the only one who disliked it. Thanks for the wonderful review.

message 14: by Amar (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amar You've had this said to you often enough it seems, but again, just wanted to comment that your review was for the most part exactly what I was thinking. I just wrote up my way-too-long review and while we may differ about the ending, I think we're in agreement about many other aspects of the novel. Great review :)

Dorina I actually liked this book but I do agree with you on certain points: the relation between FA and the young girl who eventually killed herself was a little too much (at a certain point there was also a description of how he used to undress her while talking to her like to a little child – that was really scary). The claims the narrator makes and then prove to be untrue also struck me, one of them in particular: in the beginning of the book he states that the biggest fight Fermina and her husband ever had was over a bar of soap and they didn’t speak to each other for a few days while later on, towards the middle of the book, we find out that her husband cheated on her and they lived separated for a year or two… I just assumed that Marquez forgot what he had written before.

Your comment about the end of the book however really made me curious because in the Romanian translation I have read, FA’s replay was “All our life” which sounds much better than “Forever” (if that’s the way the book ends in the English version) because they are both pretty old so all their life implies that they are aware they will die soon and they want to spend the remaining time together. It would be nice to know what the last line is in the original text and what the influence of the translators was in this case.

message 12: by Dave (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dave Totally with you on the America Vicuna thing. That was not ok.

Padavi I've just written a very short review because I thought it would take too long to list the aspects of this novel that disturbed me. I shouldn't have bothered even doing that because you have summed up exactly my feelings. Thank you

message 10: by Rush (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rush I completely agree with point 1, and also the pedophilia thing... Wtf.

Barbara Cassidy Liz - I couldn't agree with you more about the confusing names. Absolutely....I somehow was able to keep track of them but I did find myself second guessing sometimes.

message 8: by Kc (new)

Kc ok, I know Im super late. I enjoyed your review of the book. However, I think that your very insightful reasons for not liking the book as much is what makes it masterful. I dont think this book is meant to be a love story at all. I think the dragging on of the book is purposeful, just as it took Florentino 50 long miserable years to finally be with Fermina. The fact that their names were very similar did annoy me too, but I also think it was intentional, it makes you confuse them, they are connected. While Florentino is obsessive, sex crazed, hopeless, etc. Fermina is his direct opposite-uninspired, doesn't like to read, boring.

While reading you have the desire to want to like Florentino or feel sorry for him, but then he does something like abuse the 14-year old America which snaps you back to reality. Florentino is not a good guy. He is disturbed. This is intentional. Like when you like a bad character in a movie and then realize he is BAD. I think they represent the extreme. Florentino has no idea what love is!! He gets infatuated every time he meets a new girl but thinks its love.

The title itself insinuates what the book is about. Cholera is the sickness which raptured the Caribbean, leaving many dead. I think Marquez was trying to say that love IS a sickness. Also, the pronunciation of cholera in spanish also means anger or rage. Love and Rage, direct opposites. This is particularly interesting being that Florentino and Fermina end their story in a boat sailing in a boat under the Cholera Flag- signifying that they are sailing forever under this SICK, unhealthy love, in this anger and rage.

The ending brought it all together so beautifully!! Florentino is not in love with Fermina at all! He is infatuated just as he was with the other 622 women and he wants to conquer the one woman he was not able to conquer before. And Fermina is just so broken she gives in, she has not choice. She is trapped in that ship with him with no real future in her old age.

The book also has a ton of political symbolism highlighting the economic and socio situation in Columbia, especially at that time. The selfishness of Florentino, the importance of the class system and Fermina's climb into high society, Juvenal's importance on public works and safety, etc. It also focused a lot on old age and death.

In sum, I do not think that this book represents a love story at all. There is a lot of symbolism, which Marquez brought out in you, as can be seen from your review!

Marquez is a master at his craft! Again sorry so late, but I couldn't resist!

PS: The book in Spanish ends with "Toda LA Vida"

Stacy Bustamante It may help to look at the book again with the idea that the story is a satire. I believe that Garcia Marquez is commenting on many things, namely social conditions, history, and love through satire.

Karina Finke You wrote what was on my mind. I need to be honest, I took very, very long to finish this book. Sometimes I got myself reading lines with no attention at all. It was boring in some parts, I kept reading to reach the end. I think that the idea and the story arent bad. Nevertheless, it took very long... and I agree with your points!

Grecia I'm really agree with you in the point 3, this was the part that made me realize that this book was kind of not very good, but, GGM is like that, he likes sex... (strange sex)

Cassandra I'm sorry but I can't get the point in criticising the main carachters' that a negative point of the book? I don't thinks so. It may have bothered you cause you also didnt like many other features of it, but just doesn't mke sense to me. It may be hard for english speakers to get the difference between florentino and fermina, but in spanish or italian (as i read it) the male name which ends in "o" it's far from weird...
I don't know, I'm puzzled by this statement of yours :)

Husky completely agree with you on almost all points.

message 2: by Humanacosmica (new)

Humanacosmica Wow... I have read this book 3 times and never heard about this. I also used in in a psychoanalysis class in the university and we analize every character of the book and never saw what your mind does. Maybe because you are not colombian you can not understand many things about the culture and the History but that means you are also unable to understand the world and others. Maybe other type of literature could be better for you and not magical realism.

Pranav very well said..
correction: 622 excluding those for whom his passion could not stand for more than one night..
very pathetic book.. Indeed.

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