I liked One Hundred Years of Solitude (#32) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but wasn’t super impressed. I decided to give him another chance and read Love in the Time of Cholera. This time I knew about his writing style and was prepared for the descriptive ramblings of the smaller things in the lives of his characters. However, I enjoyed One Hundred Years of Solitude much more than Cholera and will probably not read anymore of his books.
Love in the Time of Cholera is a love story that follows Florentina Ariza and his love for Fermina Daza throughout his life. Even when she rejects him and marries another man later in life, he never gives up hope that he will be able to love her. The novel describes the lives of Florentina, Fermina and Dr Juvenal Urbino, Fermina’s husband, in such detail that one feels as if they know these characters and the Caribbean setting in which they live. This is the strength of the novel.
She paid no attention to the urgings of the snake charmers who offered her a syrup for eternal love, or to the pleas of the beggars lying in doorways with their running sores, or to the false Indian who tried to sell her a trained alligator. She made a long and detailed tour with no planned itinerary, stopping with no other motive than her unhurried delight in the spirit of things. She entered every doorway where there was something for sale, and everywhere she found something that increased her desire to live. She relished the aroma of vetiver in the cloth in the great chests, she wrapped herself in embossed silks, she laughed at her own laughter when she saw herself in the full-length mirror in The Golden Wire disguised as a woman from Madrid, with a comb in her hair and a fan painted with flowers. In the store that sold imported foods she lifted the lid of a barrell of pickeled herring that reminded her of nights in the northeast when she was a very little girl in San Juan de la Cienaga. She sampled an Alicante sausage that tasted of licorice, and she bought two for Saturday’s breakfast, as well as some slices of cod and a jar or red currants in aguardiente. In the spice shop she crushed leaves of sage and oregano in the palms of her hands for the pure pleasure of smelling them, and bought a handful of cloves, another of star anise, and one each of ginger root and juniper, and she walked away with tears of laughter in her eyes because the smell of the cayenne pepper made her sneeze so much.
Descriptive passages such as that are the only thing worth recommending about the book. As you read about Florentino pining his years away for Fermina but sleeping with many other woman, it’s hard to feel sorry for him. As Fermina experiences the difficulties of marriage and raises her children, she realizes that she does have a good marriage and life. Yes, it might be good for her to find new love late in life, but she had a good life. When Florentino takes a Lolita like turn in his life, I stopped caring and felt the love story was nothing more than a plot device.
I think I may revisit One Hundred Years of Solitude because I have come to appreciate his style of writing and think I may enjoy it more a second time around. The story was at least better than Love in the Time of Cholera. Even with the beautiful writing, I just didn’t care for Love in the Time in Cholera.