The Next Best Book Club discussion

Group Read Discussions > Love in the Time of Cholera - Spoilers

Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 9967 comments Mod
Ok... have it. Spoil away!

message 2: by Jon (new)

Jon Response to Lisas question in 'no-spoilers'

I was looking at spark notes the other day- it says something about that first chapter, it does introduce one of the main characters but i think its also supposed to set the tone/theme of the novel with the dead guy having a kind of secret obsessive love over a long period of time - here...ill paste what it said. Oh..and i have to say i really liked being completley taken by surprise that the doctor died suddenly at the end of the chapter - i didnt know hed be reintroduced but i quite liked the twist

this is from spark notes about chapter 1

Love in the Time of Cholera is written in modular, non-linear form, meaning that the events and other elements which appear in the first chapter of the novel are not explained until much later on in the book, when the author provides the reader with the complete background about a certain character, event, or idea. The explanations that appear later in the book lend significance to otherwise meaningless, mysterious elements of the novel. However, to understand their significance, it is vital that the reader identify such mysterious elements and question why they may be meaningful to the text as a whole.

In this first chapter, the death of Jeremiah Saint-Amour is prominent, and surely has a certain significance, though, as of yet, it is not evident. Most curious is that Saint-Amour's suicide is the first that Dr. Urbino has seen that has not been triggered by a tortured love, but by an acute fear of aging. The reader is provided further clues about Saint-Amour's importance when Dr. Urbino is described as having an unusually emotional reaction to his death. Also notable is the unfinished chess game in Saint-Amour's home, for it not only represents his unfinished life, but also presents questions that are answered later in the novel. Why, for example, is Dr. Urbino so passionate about chess? And why had Saint-Amour asked his lover to remember him with a rose? Was it merely a poetic gesture or a meaningful allusion? The most pressing question the chapter raises regards Saint-Amour's letter: What are the secrets the letter contains, and why does Dr. Urbino conceal them from the commissioner and the medical student? And why, in contrast, does he so desperately want to share him with his wife, the yet unnamed woman who is soon to become one of the book's central characters.

This chapter introduces us to Dr. Urbino. Clearly, the Doctor is a man of great power, esteem, and wisdom, for he is able to convince the commissioner to break the rules so that they may hold Saint-Amour's funeral on that same afternoon. Also, he can only find one man, Saint-Amour, who is a skilled enough chess player to provide him with worthy competition. Though the reader does not know exactly what Dr. Urbino has done to achieve such revered status, his prestige, power, and influence are evident.

There are three essential clues in the first chapter that foreshadow events that occur later in the novel. The first is the appearance of Jeremiah Saint-Amour's secret lover. Although the author gives her no name, Saint-Amour's love is significant in relationship to a later secret affair between Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza. Saint-Amour's fear of aging, and his lover's comment that he had not even seemed alive during his last earthly months also foreshadow future events. These elements in particular create a foundation on which a thematic fear and loathing of the realities of old age and death is built. Urbino's thought that the city has undergone drastic change since the days of his youth serves as a similar harbinger for the thematic animosity towards aging and the unwelcome metamorphosis it necessitates.

so now we can all feel like literature students again :)

JG (Introverted Reader) I have to say that I enjoyed this book, but mostly because of the beauty of the language. I wasn't all that impressed with the actual story.

Was I supposed to like Florentino? Because I didn't. He left a trail of destruction behind him in his quest to fill the emptiness in his life. Two people died because of him? How many illegitimate children did he have? As an illegitimate child, he should know how hard it is growing up in that time. I think there was mention of at least one, but I don't remember reading that he took any responsibility for it. Did he break up any marriages and then leave women to fend for themselves? I have to think it happened. And then at the end, the whole thing with his ward, America Vicuna. I know it was a different time, but it really just freaked me out. Not only was she only 14, but he was responsible for her. Her parents had trusted him to take care of her. And he sleeps with her? And then she kills herself? I was hoping that she'd left a letter spelling it out. I just didn't like him. But once he and Fermina finally start getting together at the end, I relented a little bit. He seemed so sweet and so good for her. But I still don't like him.

message 4: by Jaime (new)

Jaime | 163 comments I just finished this yesterday and I really didn't care for it much...I mean it was ok...but I didn't really enjoy it and probably wouldn't reccommend it. I sort of felt it more of a struggle to get through.

I didn't really feel for the characters and didn't like that Florentino was off sleeping w/ all these girls while he kept professing his love for Fermina. I was also surprised that Dr. Urbino was sleeping w/ someone else while married to Fermina. That just made me like his character a little less.

All-in-all I guess I just was not really expecting that stuff when I picked up the it was a little disappointing for me.

message 5: by Jill (new)

Jill (wanderingrogue) | 329 comments JG wrote: "I have to say that I enjoyed this book, but mostly because of the beauty of the language. I wasn't all that impressed with the actual story.

Was I supposed to like Florentino? Because I didn't. ..."

Actually, Gabriel Garcia Marquez said that if you look upon it as a simple love story, then you've missed a lot of the book. The story is a dark one. To romanticize Florentino is to miss what the book is saying. Love isn't this perfect and pure thing. It's not the romantic ideal that Florentino imagines it to be, which is proven by the fact that he's anything but the romantic ideal he imagines himself to be. Their love is not perfect. It's flawed. All love is. If you come away thinking that it was this perfect love story, then you've missed the point. Florentino is a dark character. So, in truth, is Fermina. And Urbino...which is one of the reasons Urbino is somewhat repelled by the secret life of his friend who commits suicide at the beginning of the book. His friend's relationship holds a mirror up to his own.

message 6: by Selena (new)

Selena (selenacurrently) I completely agree with you Jill! Love in the Time of Cholera is much more than a love story. None of the books that I've read by GGM are that simple. They all have a complex meaning and can be interpreted in many ways.

message 7: by Esther (new)

Esther (eshchory) | 560 comments My whole problem with Love in the Time of Cholera is that it is not a love story at all. It is a story of obsession.
Love stories do not necesssarily require white steeds and beautiful sunsets but they do require some sympathy for the connection between the 'lovers'.

As an anti-love story Wuthering Heights always springs to mind because for me it is a story of passion rather than love. But although Cathy and Heathcliffe behave abominably towards one another and to those around them, their relationship is compelling and believable.

In Love in the Time of Cholera a singularly unattractive and morally generate man stays faithful in a spectacularly hypocritical fashion to the 'love of his life' - a petty, petulant woman who when young led him to believe she loved him and then rejected him out of hand without a moment's consideration in favour of a wealthy husband and position in society.

The comparison of their relationship to Cholera I find quite apposite as it is a vicious disease that, through severe dehydration, not only weakens but dehumanises the sufferer.

message 8: by LDB (new)

LDB | 45 comments I just recently finished this book and thought I would go ahead and post my thoughts to this thread. I am disappointed to not see more comments. At any rate, I also was not highly impressed by the story. I wanted to strangle Florentino. His pining away for some idealized love drove me crazy. The way he carried on with his life rather disgusted me. He just seemed like a reclusive pervert. And the whole thing with American Vicuna reminded me so much of Lolita.

Did it drive anyone else crazy that throughout the book he kept using first and last names for the main characters rather than just first OR last names?

I have to admit that I did like the latter third of the book -- when they are both old and their real romance actually starts. The images of this old couple holding hands, getting to know each other and falling in love I found to be very touching. While the ending could be seen as a bit sappy, I rather liked that it left things up in the air in kind of a romanticized ideal kind of way.

While it will definitely not be one of my favorites, the writing was great and there are definitely certain scenes that will linger in my mind.

message 9: by Dessiree (new)

Dessiree (droman) | 1 comments I read this book a few years ago and I really like it. It is not only a love history, it is a portraid of the differents ways (not always sweet and perfect)that men and women see the feeling of real love.

message 10: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Sydlik I haven't read this book in a few years, but I remember being very impressed. I am surprised at the negative feelings toward the book simply because people did not agree with the main characters' morality. But I guess I should look at it to mean that people aren't blindly praising it.

Anyway, as unnerving as it might sound, I couldn't help but relate to the nature of the characters. Love (or what one calls love even if it isn't) can drive people to act in crazy, despicable destruction and self-destructive habits....But I think that is the grotesque beauty of the book.

message 11: by LDB (new)

LDB | 45 comments Andrew - I like your point about how the book showed the myriad ways that love can impact people and make people act. That definitely comes through. For me, the morality of the main character didn't really bother me so much - everyone is what and who they are. It was more the very narrow, almost introspective focus of the plot around obsessive love and the lives involved. It was that narrow obsessiveness of Florentino for Fermina that bothered me. But, I think that says more about me (and my stubborn refusal to let anyone or anything external control my life) than it does about the book.

Have you read other Gabriel Garcia Marquez books? If so, how do you feel this one compares to some of his others?

message 12: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Sydlik I have not read other Marquez books - though I plan to - but I have read a number of his short stories. Those were very...weird. Especially in his early ones, they evoke that sense of magical realism, in which the mundane is entangled with the surreal/supernatural. One, "Eva Is Inside Her Cat," takes place over 1,000 years, if I remember correctly, but it is limited to one character, one location.

I think that sense of reality being dizzying and frightening is reflected even in the non-magical "Love in the Time of Cholera." If you look at all these love affairs and dysfunctional relationships as a way of looking at both the cruelty and the pleasure inherent in life, as taking the prosaic details of life and transforming them into something epic like Florentino's "obsessional love," the characters might not seem so offensive.

message 13: by LDB (new)

LDB | 45 comments I have only read Marquez's 100 years of Solitude. I need to try some of his other work. This book is so different from 100 years in that 100 years had so much going on in it - so many characters and different plot threads in addition to the magical realism. The complexity in this book is definitely much more subtle. This is one of those books that a group discussion can help you see different angles and perspectives within it.

message 14: by Tango (new)

Tango I read this one a few months ago. I was distracted by the quote from Oprah on the cover of my copy claiming 'One of the greatest love stories I have ever read.' This description is so wrong. I liked Dr Urbino much more than Florentino (for me this was the real love story with all of the ups and down of their relationship). Whereas Florentino's 'love' was really an unhealthy obsession, but one that Garcia Marquez decided to ultimately reward him for.

message 15: by LDB (new)

LDB | 45 comments Tango - I like your statement about an unhealthy obsession that Florentino was rewarded for in the end. I kind of felt the same way. I guess another way to look at it, though, is that persistence (especially obstinate persistence...) pays off in the end.

message 16: by Jill (last edited Mar 28, 2009 10:45PM) (new)

Jill (jillybeans) Hello. I read this last summer. I think throughout the story, GGM compares love to illness. "Love sick" meant different distorted scenarios for various characters. We don't really empathize with anyone.

I disagree that the ending is happy. Although Fermina and Florentino are finally together, they are too old. He even comments that she smells old and is not longer attractive once they finally have sex. The deteriorated shore line reflects the main characters themselves. Just as in their lives from the start, the only way they can be together is segregated from the rest of the world declaring themselves to be "sick" with Cholera. They deserve each other.


message 17: by LDB (new)

LDB | 45 comments While the ending may not be happy in a traditional sense, it is happy in its own way. Some might perceive love as being in a different world - two people separated from society by their love. While both Florentino and Fermina realize this is not an idealized love, it has transcended from being something explicit (such as physical attraction) to something more intangible, instinctual, subtle. They are going against the grain of society by perhaps being too old to fall in love. But actually, they find sustenance and comfort in having someone to spend their final days with. So, I would agree that GGM is perhaps comparing love to illness but I don't agree that the ending is wholly unhappy.

message 18: by Nancy (new)

Nancy (nancybachrach) What a beautiful transporting read, from the very first page. Even better than the vivid movie.

message 19: by Nicole (new)

Nicole  | 155 comments I just finished this and was really unhappy with the fact that Florentino ended up winning her over. I completely agree with those who mentioned that it was an unhealthy obsession, and really it continues as they end up more or less imprisioned on a boat under the cholera flag, so that he has managed to possess her away from the world. I honestly would have been happier if when she refused to talk to him on the phone that was the end of it.

However, is some ways I would call this a love story, not between the two of them, more to the fact as love exists all forms, often where you least expect it. For Florentino, there were many women in his life that loved him despite the way he treated them. Fermina didn't seem to expect love in her life, yet she was fiercely loyal to her aunt, and found great love with both her husband and sun.

message 20: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie | 271 comments I both liked this book and hated it. This is not a love story. It's like calling Wuthering Heights a love story. They're both obsession stories. I agree with Esther, though, that Heathcliff and Catherine were more believable than Florentino and Fermina.

Florentino was incredibly unlikeable, especially the ickiness with Americana at the end. But even before that he got a woman killed and barely hesitated to keep doing what had gotten her killed (sleeping with married women).

The only upside was the writing was beautiful and it had the same kind of wackiness as Catch-22. In fact, it felt like a weird combo of Catch-22 and Wuthering Heights.

back to top