Tom O’Connell's Reviews > Love in the Time of Cholera

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
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's review
Dec 20, 2011

really liked it
Read from December 20, 2011 to January 09, 2012

After a deceptively slow start this book managed to really grab my attention.

I guess it's thematically comparable to Jane Austin, or Bronte's 'Wuthering Heights', or even Tolstoy's 'Anna Karenina' (because of its period, its lush prose, its broad, time-jumping narrative, multi-character arc, and exploration of the darker side of love). From the outset these comparisons seem just, but in truth it differs in a few key areas.

For one, 'Love in the Time of Cholera' is wittier. Its a serious novel through-and-through, but there's a wry undercurrent of humour that took me completely by surprise.
The second is in Marquez's moral stance: this is not your classic, syrupy romance novel, it's a frightening meditation on obsession. This description could aline it with Bronte's 'Wuthering Heights', but that comparison doesn't fit right. 'Wuthering Heights' is all about melodrama (its players are jealous creatures who exist to hurt what cannot be theirs); 'Love in the Time of Cholera's depiction of love is nobler and deeper, yet more harrowing because of it.
Marquez turns his three main characters (Florentino, Fermina and Dr Urbino) inside out so that we may see every iota of their beings. Their motivations are complex – sometimes inspiring, other times disappointing – but usually always true to life. This isn't a Disney Fairytale, but it isn't about cartoonish villains hurting each other, either.
That brings me to 'Anna Karenina', its closest fitting comparison (at least of the several I've cited). They're comparable because both books are a broad, insightful look into the hearts of its characters. They both showcase the euphoria of love, but they don't shy away from depicting the dark, selfish side of it, either.

Florentino's persistence [to live by his heart] and Fermina's reluctance [to live by hers] creates a hurricane of destruction that lasts over fifty years. Their respective actions hurt not just themselves, but everyone around them (though fortunately not in the blatant manner of 'Wuthering Heights'). There's a lot of adultery and promiscuity, but it's there to illustrate just how childish love can make a person act.

It's entirely possible to interpret the events of this novel in a romantic and favourable light. It's even possible to place one's self in the shoes of either protagonist. This is because Marquez doesn't spoon-feed the reader his own ideologies, he leaves the events open for interpretation. Your own theories and prejudices [on love] will likely affect how you feel about this story. Some may find Florentino endearing, others will perceive him as direly dysfunctional.

That is the real strength of this book, that there are so many possible reactions to it. Even if you're in the camp that wants to hang Florentino up by his own romantic entrails, it's worth reading on the strength of the prose alone.

An intoxicating modern classic; I look forward to revisiting this (and possibly reinterpreting it) fifty years on, when I've a lifetime of experience behind me.

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12/20/2011 page 20
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