I know it's late, but here it is! July's Book Club Bloggers Book of the Month was Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. I'd read it before and didn't really like it, so I had no intention of reading it again. But after reading what Katie said here about having similar feelings yet loving it the second time around, I decided to give it another go.
Though I still can't say that I absolutely loved everything about the book, I couldn't help but fall for how beautifully written it was. I underlined many many lines about love and death and time, and I'm fighting against sharing all of them here, but I'll resist and only share the ones that directly correlate to my review.
I loved the beginning: the feverish and innocent love between Fermina and Florentino. The first chapters were imbued with flower saturated scents, a perfumed air, and a rosy haze. I was captivated by lines such as:
"Delirious with joy, Florentino Ariza spent the rest of the afternoon eating roses and reading the note letter by letter, over and over again, and the more he read the more roses he ate..."
"This was the time when he gave in to his desire to eat the gadrenas that Tránsito Ariza grew in pots on the patio, so that he could know the taste of Fermina Daza. It was also the time when he happened to find in one of his mother's trunks a liter bottle of cologne that the sailors from the Hamburg-American Line sold as contraband, and he could not resist the temptation to sample it in order to discover other tastes of his beloved. He continued to drink from the bottle until dawn, and be became drunk on Fermina Daza..."
One of my favorite parts of the book was, in fact, the title and how "the symptoms of love were the same as those of cholera." It reminded me of this project by Dan Estabrook which illustrates that the symptoms of sickness are the same as those of being in love: shortness of breath, loss of appetite, heart rate increase, weakness, fever, chills, sleeplessness, delirium and euphoria.
And so I realized that the reason I didn't like the book the first time had less to do with the beautiful writing and more to do with the characters. I didn't connect to them at all, I had no feeling for them. I didn't find it a "love story of astonishing power" as the cover proclaims. I read it as a work of fiction and nothing more. A story. Something to be appreciated but nothing profound. This is mostly due to the fact that there is no suspense, no sense of finally! We know from the beginning that Florentino will again profess his love and they will get a second chance. I think I enjoyed it less because of that - no hoping, no waiting, no anticipation of that final moment.
In fact, I felt more for the love between Fermina and Dr. Urbino and found it more meaningful than hers and Florentino's ever was.
"In the end they knew each other so well that by the time they had been married for thirty years they were like a single divided being... Together they had overcome the daily incomprehension, the instantaneous hatred, the reciprocal nastiness and fabulous flashes of glory in the conjugal conspiracy. It was the time when they loved each other best, without hurry or excess, when both were the most conscious of and grateful for their incredible victories over adversity. Life would still present them with other mortal trials, of course, but that no longer mattered: they were on the other shore."
Their marriage is consistently described as the happiest years of her life and the many passages about Fermina's grief and loss, empty spaces in her heart and home and bed, unfinished thoughts and unspoken words after Dr. Urbino's death spoke volumes of real love, a lifetime of love between two people. To me, it remains the truest love story in the entire book.
But then... at the end... I got it...
There was something very touching in the slow way they return to each other near the end of their lives instead of the hurried rush of love in their younger days. In the end, I did feel something for Fermina and Florentino and how he came to truly love her for who she was rather than an ideal. In the end, I did feel a sense of finally! and I loved their love more for being leisurely, slow and believable rather than epic, legendary and intense.
"... they no longer felt like newlyweds, and even less like belated lovers. It was as if they had leapt over the arduous calvary of conjugal life and gone straight to the heart of love. They were together in silence like an old married couple wary of life, beyond the pitfalls of passion, beyond the brutal mockery of hope and the phantoms of disillusion: beyond love. For they had lived together long enough to know that love was always love, anytime and anyplace, but it was more solid the closer it came to death."
You can read the rest of the Book Club Bloggers' reviews here.