Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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Based on some cursory research of reviews of this book, it appears that those who’ve read it fall very neatly into two camps: absolutely hated this book, or were completely changed by it. Keep in mind that the “research” I conducted was looking at Love in the Time of Cholera’s Goodreads page and skimming the comments, most of which were either 1-2 stars, or 5 stars.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Nobel prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez is, if anything, an artful high-prose novel which desperately seeks to proselytize the Truth that Love is the single and solitary motivating emotion. It does so in a way that, truth be told, I found difficult to care about.

Cholera is a timeline-jumping, whiny tale about unrequited love. Its cast is composed of adulterers, jealous husbands and wives, controlling parental figures; vacuous souls consumed with petty selfishness and greed which masquerades as emotional depth because of constant moaning about the pain that love can cause. There’s a wide cast of characters, but the true protagonist of the story is one Florentino Ariza. The story meanders back-and-forth between Florentino, his first love Fermina Daza, and her husband, Dr. Juvenal Urbino. Florentino falls hopelessly in love with Fermina as a young man, and proceeds to spend the rest of his life in pursuit of that love, at the expense of countless other women, with whom he serially copulates, and his own life, which he — essentially — forfeits for the benefit of the chase.

The reader is supposed to feel for these people, but I just couldn’t get behind the “woe is me, love hurts” attitude that literally every character in the story adopts at one point or another, many of which wear that mantle for most of the novel. It may have something to do with the mindset of the reader — someone recently heartbroken may find this story resonates with them with particular strength. For my part, I’m in a happy, communicative relationship, and look back at some of my previous relationships with deep regret for my own foolish behavior. But hey, that’s what life’s about, right? Living and learning? Growing up and maturing and treating others with dignity and respect?

Evidently not, for the characters in this story. Florentino Ariza and the rest of them flounder from emotional state to state, all while physically floundering to one another for elicit trysts, which get a bit old after a while. As I listened to this book, I would find myself groaning with annoyance in the car when another pontifical, grandiose statement meant to shake the foundations of my understandings of love passed by like so much hot air. One thing’s certain: no matter how well you write — and let’s not split hairs, Marquez is a master of prose and the translation was exquisite — your story can still be a bore.

When I read novels like this and find them disappointing, I tend to wonder if my taste is the problem. When I dislike a book, I get the same Imposter Syndrome flareups I get when I’m working on my own fiction.

“Who the hell are you,” I’ll ask myself as I write a critical review like this one, “to criticize someone like this?”

I have no formal education in Literature, but I’ve done a fair amount of reading. I know what I like and what I don’t like, what I find profound and pedestrian, and what does and does not feel like a waste of time to read. Whether or not that’s how you feel about a book is entirely up to you. For the most part, I write these reviews for the practice, and because I care about reading. If all 8 of you keep reading these, then I’m a happy person. If nobody reads these, I’ll still be happy that I wrote them.

I’m a reader. Reading makes me happy, even if I happen to mislike the book I’m currently working through. If you decide to read this one, I hope you enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy it, I hope you enjoyed building your own opinion.

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