Samantha Newman's Reviews > Love in the Time of Cholera

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
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Oct 05, 07

bookshelves: fiction
Read in May, 2007

I previously read "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and I liked it a lot, and I was intruiged by the title "Love in the Time of Cholera" so I thought I'd read it.

Within the first few pages I had the inkling I didn't like it, but sometimes it takes books a little while to get warmed up. Plus, I don't like starting a book and not finishing it, because I know I'll never go back to a book I stopped reading because I didn't like it, and if I stop reading it, I'll never know if I would have liked the rest of it. So I forged ahead and completed the whole book.

First off, the magical realism that made "100 yrs. of Solitude" so gripping was not as prevalent in "Cholera." I actually only saw it a few times in the entire novel, unless it was so well-done that it was just perfectly woven into the book and I didn't notice. I doubt that though...but this was easy to get over; I mean, it's a different book, so it was bound to be, well, different from "100...Solitude."

But I guess my conservative / religious side was riled up by the rest of the book. It portrays everyone as being incredibly sex-oriented. Men, women, everyone. And not "morally" so, if you know what I mean. Everyone sleeps around, while married and while unmarried. And the tone of the book seemed to be saying that that's expected - quite frankly, like the more sex a person has, most of the time with the more people, the more normal and in some ways the more gifted they are. I'm generalizing quite a bit, not getting into the specifics of the story and my reactions to them, however.

Now this book is on Oprah's book club list and she said it's "the greatest love story" she's ever heard. Alright...if a good love story equals someone "waiting" for their true love, where waiting means having sex with everything that moves. And now they're making a movie. The tag says "Florentino, rejected by the beautiful Fermina at a young age, devotes much of his adult life to carnal affairs as a desperate attempt to heal his broken heart." ?? I guess I can see how you can read the book that way. I guess I just don't prefer books where carnal affairs are the center. And I didn't read it that way. It didn't seem to me that the carnal affairs were a desperate attempt to heal his broken heart. They seemed like he just wanted to have sex in the meantime. SOMEWHAT SPOILER ALERT BUT NOT REALLY:::::you cannot declare yourself a virgin just b/c you didn't love the hundreds of people you had sex with before your "one true love."

What bothered me I think was that in the end, I couldn't tell if the novel was condoning a life of promiscuity as long as it leads to one "true" love, or if it was condemning its character's behavior in some ways. I tend to lean towards thinking it wasn't really condemning it though. I probably missed something, I'm sure. Because not being sure what a book was saying is not usually the book's fault.

In some ways it should have been titled "Sex in the Time of Cholera," because the term "love" was used instead of "sex" almost constantly, and obviously, those are two very different things.
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Comments (showing 1-41 of 41) (41 new)

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Amanda I'm not sure that because one disagrees with other's actions that they then cease to happen. Literature is about the human being's interaction with the world around them reagardless of whether it is morally soothing or not.

Rose I too forged through this book to be highly disappointed. This wasn't about true love, just obsession.

message 3: by Ramiro (last edited Dec 23, 2007 01:39PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ramiro  de la Garza I too had a tough time getting through the first 30 pages or so and I was saddened by Florentino's obsession. For a man tormented so greatly, he looks for answers in the arms of fast or emotionally damaged women. I guess God makes them and they find each other. Each page of this novel is greatly satisfying just on the prose alone. I read it once and I'm glad I did because of its steadfast magic, commitment to expressing love in a powerful and singular fashion. Florentino's type of love exists in the ether. I pray to God I never fall under its spell.

Who says the wretched cannot love in their own way? Take Fermina out of the picture and you still have a man with some putrid tastes, but bring her into the picture and you see a heart as vulnerable and as innocent as that of a child.

Amanda Kudos to you for plowing through...I totally agree with your thoughts on sometimes taking awhile to warm up to a book and not wanting to give up...I wasn't as strong and couldn't stick with it past page 60. I feel a little bad since I didn't even really make it to the real part of the book, but I kept asking myself, 'why should I care about these people?'

Annie Myers A very good question... and my answer is, I didn't! I think that was a very big part of my problem with this book, although I did manage to 'plow through' it to the end. I just did not like the characters of Florentino and Fermina. I had no admiration nor empathy for either of them. There were times when I wanted to take that umbrella Florentino was always carrying and beat him over the head with it. I found nothing noble about his keeping his "love" for Fermina alive for so many years, and I cannot, for the life of me, understand how such a strange man managed to find 622 women who felt enough compassion or whatever for him to have affairs with him and not expect anything from him in return. Maybe I'm dense - but I just don't get it!

message 6: by Karl (last edited Mar 25, 2009 04:19PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Karl I'm smack dab in the middle and I am feeling the same way that you did only I am going to stop reading the book. I absolutely loved "100 years.." but this one is not so good and I feel a little uneasy about the romances depicted. I will heed the advice of those who where disappointed and trust my gut feeling about this one. I love the author so I will try anothe book of his. Keep on reading everyone!

Samantha Newman Amanda wrote: "I'm not sure that because one disagrees with other's actions that they then cease to happen. Literature is about the human being's interaction with the world around them reagardless of whether it ..."

I'm very aware of that, and agree with what you're saying, but it doesn't mean I must, or did, enjoy reading it, or what it seems to be saying about sex in general.

Samantha Newman Annie wrote: "A very good question... and my answer is, I didn't! I think that was a very big part of my problem with this book, although I did manage to 'plow through' it to the end. I just did not like the c..."

That's quite how I felt!

message 9: by Angryy0uth (last edited Aug 24, 2009 09:34AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Angryy0uth This is a perfect portrayal of Caribbean culture/society led by the relevance of social status. Love (or sex, however you want to call it) is just a device that moves the story perfectly through a period of time (1900 onwards) and a culture.

maybe that device worked at the time and the place where the book was written, but i don't think it worked for me (or most people on this thread). i'm no latin america expert, so i'll take what you say at face value. but for me to accept his actions would be impossible. for me, no one in this book i found particularly likeable, and as a result, i didn't enjoy this book.

ps. caribbean irony? is that different to japanese irony or south african irony?

Shawna Ugh. So true. I HATED this book. If this is the best love story ever told - then love SUCKS and is all about sex. Which happens to be only ONE of the many great things about true love. Bah. Hate this book.

Chana LOL, oh yes, Sex in the Time of Cholera. You have just written the most succinct and accurate review right there. I wrote my critical review but I didn't really nail it the way you did. I appreciate your review.

Cinnamonhopes Annie wrote: "I just did not like the characters of Florentino and Fermina. I had no admiration nor empathy for either of them. There were times when I wanted to take that umbrella Florentino was always carrying and beat him over the head with it..."

I know this is 2 years late to the discussion, but I've just finished the book today, and I have to ask. You actually felt enough feeling about Florentino to want to hit him? That's more than I could muster. I was almost entirely disinterested in him or his exploits. Wanting to hit him at least shows that the character riled you up a bit. I finished this book out of pure determination that it wouldn't 'defeat' me, so to speak. It seemed obvious to me that he'd get Fermina in the end, but I didn't care. I wasn't rooting for him, or against him. I mostly just wanted to book to end so that I could have read it and had done with it.

message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

I just finished writing a personal review of the book (I actually finished a few months ago)- but every point that you made seemed to be the exact point I made in my review and the very last line is word for word the same from my review. Moreover, I would like to say that even though the book was visually appealing (in terms of the descriptions), it was SO emotionally uninvolving!

message 14: by Steph (new) - rated it 1 star

Steph Renguso I'm about 70% through this book and I just find it so incredibly boring. I agree with all of your points. I don't feel a connection to any of the characters and I can't wait for the book to end!

message 15: by Busie (new)

Busie errr...i just won't bother with it then

Ellena Navarro I agree with you. I'm reading the book and I'm more than half way through and I just have no interest in completing it. Thanks for giving us a heads up because I was hoping it would get better. I guess not.

Samantha Newman I'm just flattered that my review has sparked such a conversation! :D

message 18: by David (new)

David Bulgarelli I have a few insights to make. About the virginity thing, it wasn't meant literally, but symbolically. Of course somebody who's had sex that many times isn't a virgin, but since they were all meaningless to him, he hasn't TRULY experienced all that sex is when you're doing it with the person you love. Where there is no meaning, there's no true enjoyment.

Also, I think the book wasn't either condoning or condemning a life of promiscuity. Probably closer to condemning, though. He tried to fill his longing for her with countless affairs but always still had her in his heart. It was his alternative. The message though is that if he had his way, he'd have rather spent his life with only her than have all those affairs. So in effect, the book is saying that that path is the one people want to go down if they can. I suppose you could say then it is a minor condemnation of promiscuity.

Just my thoughts.

message 19: by Mina (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mina i'm sorry samantha i'm afraid i'm not agree with you and i'll tell you why ... the book is not all about sex affairs that florntino had done with many girls (not so many as i think )it is completely all about saving your self and love for someone even if you're not sure you'll be with him/her again or if you die before having the life-giving kiss from the one you love .. florntino lived his life feverish by fermina he didn't think of having sex with another woman till that woman rapped him then he found his way to stop thinking about fermina but deep in his soul she lived...and i think anyone of us would have done what he did if we felt quite what he felt coz love hurts like hell .. he would have wasted his life in a short time if didn't have that sex affairs .. i think that GGM is genius coz there were a Drama in the novel between every relation he had and it wasn't all about having sex....all the way through the novel i felt that how would the love (only true love) would live despite the many tragedies that confront us ...symptoms of love are the same of cholera says GGM .. 53 years,6 months,11 day and night.. and 11 night without love is like 11 century of crying your self till sleeping so what what 51 years would be !!!..sorry for the long speech :D

Meetu completely agree with the disenchantment with the book - though not for anything to do with the sex bit. the characters were utterly uninvolving and at times irritating enough to hit them on the head with their own umbrellas :)

message 21: by Sabyasachi (new) - added it

Sabyasachi Das I just went through all the comments. I haven't read the book, but these comments (especially the ones by Toh) makes me want to read the book.

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

Carl Gosh! Colour me pervert.

Lauren "There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are either well written or badly written. That is all." - Oscar Wilde

I think reading books that way is more fun. There is no point in judging fictional characters; there is no actual behavior to correct (although I guess it's based on a true story, but still, we don't know these people IRL). If the immoral actions are well-written, it just adds depth to the character and makes them more real. And trying to wonder at the author's moral agenda is something else I think takes away from the enjoyment of a book. Although I guess there is something fun about reading about characters who you identify with, there's just too much more to be explored to keep to those preferences alone. (I liked the book). Though I guess I have to admit, the last "affair" before he got back with her grossed me out!

message 24: by Azra (new) - rated it 5 stars

Azra Milaimi i think this book is a really great book....and you are wrong about the title cause i think it fits perfect....this is a really magnificent book ....“There is no greater glory than to die for love.”....gabriel garcia marquez is a legend!!!!!

message 25: by Jane (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jane Glen At the end, I wondered why I had bothered to persevere. It just didn't seem worthwhile.

Samantha Newman It's been a long time since I've read this. My views change, so I wonder if I'd see this book differently if I were to read it again now.

Ellena Navarro I don't think so. Some books you can go back to years later and have a change of heart. I don't think that applies to this book. I was so disappointed as well.

message 28: by Reid (new) - rated it 5 stars

Reid Samantha wrote: "It's been a long time since I've read this. My views change, so I wonder if I'd see this book differently if I were to read it again now."

Go for it, Samantha, if you have the thought to reread it. Our perspectives change with life experience, which is one of the themes of the novel, and this occurs with the main characters. And there is certainly a focus on marriage, and of living together for decades, and how love and our needs change over time, and his focus on aging is fantastic.

message 29: by Paula (new) - rated it 1 star

Paula I'm struggling to get through this book so I feel better knowing that other people have struggled with it as we'll. I don't enjoy putting a book aside but I am certainly tempted to. I'm giving it another 50 pages.

Samantha Newman Yes, I wonder if now I could see more symbolism, or what it says about what love makes us do, or what sex can make people do, for example. Or maybe it is not on the dude's side, necessarily. Or maybe not, ha.

message 31: by Kim (new) - added it

Kim only on pg 43, but like it so far. Honestly, though, it has been on my shelf for years, bought it just because I thought it was one of those books everyone should read. Read 100 Yrs in college and wasn't ready for it. This one sat on the shelf because I have been too intimidated to read Marquez again... (?) Maybe now that I'm 46 I should really read 100 Yrs this time and just put this one down.

Kelly Wow. I am surprised by how many people dislike this book. I am reading it now and I am really loving it. I am also a big believer that you don't need to like the characters to like the book. As a writer, I think that Marquez is brilliant, -and I find his prose just beautiful.

As far as re-reading... I think that is always a great idea. I think that you perceive books very differently based on when you might be reading them. I have had occasions when I really did not care for a book, but then at a different time, it becomes one of my favorites. Or times when I re-read and appreciate the book in a different way.

It is really interesting to see how people feel differently about this book. The world would be quite boring if we all liked the same things.

David I didn't see the book as condoning Florentino's affairs, nor did I feel that the inclusion of them was in any way salacious. I saw them as sad contrasts to the more beautiful love he awaited. Florentino is wanton. Urbino is fastidious. Both of them miss love. So does Fermina. But Florentino finds it in the end not in the salaciousness of his past or the fastidiousness of Urbino, but in a relationship which transcends the merely physical. F

message 34: by Rosa (new) - rated it 1 star

Rosa well I agree with you I read this book expecting it were like 100 years... but I got dissapointed when I finished it and it was nothing like 100 years..., also I hated the character of Florentino who was so creepy with his obsession for Fermina, truly I just not regret of have read it just because it was wrote by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

message 35: by Sam (new)

Sam Piccolo Perhaps your disappointment (and that of others)is a result of misunderstanding of Gabriel García Marquèz's aims. Garcìa Marquèz has in the past spoke of his 'trap' in the novel-enticing readers into sympathizing with Florentino Ariza. However, one of the main things I took away from the book was just how destructive Florentino Ariza's type of love is. Marquèz illustrates this not only with several deaths (elderly couple beaten with oar, woman murdered by husband, and the suicide of Florentino Ariza's young lover). Additionally, the consistency with which cholera and love are related is likely the biggest tip off to García Marquèz's message. Whilst I (reluctantly) accept you and others didn't like this masterpiece, I would hope that the richness of Garcìa Marquez's writing would at least warrant a 2/5. Though I'm not surprised Oprah called it 'the greatest love story ever told' (that woman has proven again and again that she is devoid of reason), I believe Love in the Time of Cholera is a story about love, not a love story.

message 36: by Sam (new)

Sam Piccolo ^3/5*
I just noticed that typo.

Sandra Munro A good, honest review Samantha, thank you! :) (And while it is kind of you to suggest in your closing remarks that perhaps the fault of not understanding the book was with you, rather than the author, I disagree!

message 38: by Ella (last edited Jul 11, 2014 06:22AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ella Wagemakers Rose wrote: "I too forged through this book to be highly disappointed. This wasn't about true love, just obsession. "

True love -- perhaps not what it is to one person, but the very definition of it to another. It's a matter of definitions. Love is always true because otherwise it's not ... love. But what that love is concretely made up of (other than the diaphanous romantic clouds many associate the word with, which in turn is often connected with Barbara Cartland types of lit, or worse, the so-called sanctified type the church likes to preach) -- that is what Marquez does his best to describe here. But okay ... that was just my 2 cents' worth.

Marquez merely describes ... it is we who judge, something we absolutely love to do even though we can only glimpse a fraction of what he originally intended. He knows us, though ... 'Don't fall into the trap,' he says.

message 39: by Ella (last edited Jul 11, 2014 03:43PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ella Wagemakers Perhaps before we write a review, we should ask ourselves if we have ever loved this way? I think it would be glorious to love this way. I think it would be glorious to live knowing one is capable of loving this way. That said, it takes more than a truckload of guts to love this way. Who among us has that courage? The way we answer that question will indicate our ultimate response to this book.

David While a lot of people seem to be reacting negatively to "love" as it is seen in Gabi's book, I believe what they are really reacting to is the "cholera." I live in a world that has both, although I don't like it very much.

message 41: by Pranav (last edited Oct 03, 2014 03:01AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Pranav I read this book a second time just a couple of weeks ago.. and I am surprised how I liked it so much ten years ago and why I hated it now.. despite one cannot question the wisdom of the writer's heart.. but well, he is a great and that is quite expected of him.. what is not expected is that he tries to adulate a love-sick man, almost morbid and to some degree deranged, though still holding tight to poetry and some of the emotion that looked every time genuine with every woman he came across..
I was not sure of the statistics.. exaggeration has been his main tool in almost all of his works but I don't think it should be used so shamelessly here.. heralding an act which is sinful, if not criminal.. He had relation with 622 women, excluding those with whom his romance didn't last more than a night.. I don't think he should have tried to make a hero of a womanizer.. Just consider just one of those many women, forgotten by this hero and passing her life in an eternal wait.. Most of all I got to think about America Vicuna, his darling just yesterday, who committed suicide and the gentleman was enjoying his love with the woman on a boat..
To me, this just becomes a story of a morbidly romantic man, a very ordinary man who idealized an ordinary woman in such degree that he could not imagine freedom without her love, and whose heartbreak propelled him towards having countless women on the course.. there was nothing poignant about him.. rather i found the whole business of it poignant, and only because it became the reason of many women's misery and solitude..
And so I hate the idea that it is being heralded about 'love'.. I can only take it as a spiritual demise, and psychological condition..

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