To some extent, I want to wait to post about Love in the Time of Cholera until after tonight’s discussion with my other book club – but at the same time, I want to capture the things that I felt about it before they are tainted by my friends’ reactions, positive or negative.
Love in the Time of Cholera has been on my to read list for several years, since the magical vacation when I read 100 Years of Solitude and was utterly transfixed by Gabriel García Márquez’s prose. 100 Years of Solitude is a remarkable book, and from the first few paragraphs I felt myself transported to another time and place, immersed in one family’s epic, complicated tale. I had hoped for the same experience with Love in the Time of Cholera, and when my first attempt to read it failed to produce that feeling after 46 pages, I shelved it.
I’m thankful, then, for another attempt and greater incentive to finish – both for 12 Books and for my local librarian-type book club. Love in the Time of Cholera was my pick for March, and I finished it last night, just in time for tonight’s discussion. And by ‘finished it last night’, I mean that I sat on the porch until the sun went down, then sat in various places inside with Mina while pushing through about 250 pages in a couple of hours. Part of that pushing through was in order to meet the deadline – but it really didn’t feel like hours and hours because I was enjoying the book.
The parts of the story that resonated the most with me were the depictions of old love. Perhaps this is because I’ve often commented to Shane that I can’t wait to be old together – or perhaps because I recognize my loved ones in the compromises and commitments of Dr. Juvenal Urbino and Fermina Daza, whose greatest fight resulted not from an affair or in-laws or the many trials of half a century together, but over a forgotten bar of soap. Their love isn’t idealized – or ideal. In fact, it doesn’t start out as love, and frequently barely resembles love. However, their love is more real than the fire in the heart of Florentino Ariza, who whiles away fifty years in the arms of other women while hoping against hope that his one true love, Fermina Daza, will be widowed so that they can at last be together, rekindling the flames of a childhood passion which one never truly felt but the other can never truly relinquish.
As with 100 Years of Solitude, the non-linear narrative makes it hard at times to know how you feel or what you think about a particular character, action, or event. I’m left unsettled by the ending, not because it’s particularly good or bad, but because it doesn’t make sense to me. It isn’t consistent with the Fermina Daza the reader has come to know, and the final turn of evenings are a little too convenient for Florentino Ariza. Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t read it – just that I don’t know how I feel just yet. Maybe I’ll write another post after tonight’s discussion.