May 23, 2007

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

It seems to me that opinions on Gabriel Garcia Marquez in general, and on this book in particular, tend to be polarized. People seem to either love it or hate it, and while reading this I could see why.

It could be said that this book has everything to fail. The chapters are very long – 70 plus pages, which is not very reader-friendly. The sentences themselves are long, sometimes taking whole paragraphs. The narrator is omniscient, and jumps between the thoughts and feelings of particular characters, sometimes with great speed. There are flashbacks and flashforwards and further flashbacks. It’s the kind of book that demands your whole attention – it’s easy to get lost otherwise. It could be said, then, that this book has everything to fail, and yet - chaotically, triumphantly, luxuriously - it succeeds.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez's seemingly clumsy style absolutely sucked me in. The story unfolds like an oral tale, one in which the teller adds remarks about particular characters and events as they come to his mind, even if they don’t fully relate to the main plot. And yet they are enriching - they add colour, detail, depth and reality to the world he's creating.

I loved everything about this book. It’s relatively long, but I went though it in three days, because I simply could not put it down. I loved the setting – an unnamed Caribbean town whose sights and smells and sounds were made real before my eyes. I loved the details about sunken treasures, about river sailing, about cholera, about the lives of the ex-slaves, about life in a small town in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

And of course, I loved the story itself. It’s hard to talk about it without giving things away, so I will try to refrain. I’m just going to say a thing or two. First, what some see as a tale of undying love was, for me, more of a tale of obsession. But also a tale of life, of how very large the human heart can be, of the variety of emotions one can experience in a lifetime, and of how the truthfulness of some does not make the others false.

Most of all, I loved how this story deals with old age – the vulnerabilities and apparent indignities it brings, the way the body begins to let one down, the emotions this sparkles. At some point towards the end of the book, a character says that love in old age is obscene. The book, of course, does everything to show how wrong this is. This is the story of people who refused to be entombed alive, who were determined to truly live for as long as there was any strength left in their limbs, and who show us that love can never come too late.

Other Blog Reviews:
A Fondness for Reading
Stuff as Dreams are Made On
In Spring it is the Dawn
Educating Petunia
Adventures in Reading
Book-a-rama
Reading Adventures
Eclectic/Eccentric

18 comments:

  1. I'm a lover of LitToC! I know exactly where I was when I finished it, just as one may know where they were when Armstrong stepped on the moon or when Kennedy was shot. It was the first book I ever finished and wanted to start all over again, imediately, just to rejoin the characters. Wow!

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  2. I admit to being a bit leery of reading anything by Marquez after reading One Hundred Years of Solitude. It had some good moments for me, but it really never grabbed me and I felt like I missed so much of what the book was supposed to be about. I have heard this one is a favorite among people who didn't care for Solitude and so have wondered if it was worth a try. Never judge an author by just one book, or something like that?

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  3. Maggie, when I finished it, I wasn't able to pick up anything else to read for a while. It's the kind of story that lingers with you, and you do not want to let go of it.


    Literary Feline, my first experience with him was with "Chronicle of a Death Foretold", which I read at 15 and absolutely loathed. Then at 20 I read “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and completely fell in love with it. I'm not sure which one I like better.

    The stories are very different, and I think the story in "Love..." is more engaging. Even though it also encompasses a long time span, there are fewer characters, so it’s easier to get attached to them and want to see how the story unfolds.

    The writing style, however, is very similar, and so is the general “feel” of the story.

    I’d still say give this one a try, though. You might like it. Sometimes our reaction to a book depends on the moment on which we read it.

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  4. One of these days I'm going to read this book. I see it over and over in lists of "must reads" and I'm encouraged you liked it because it, like Proust, has sentences that seem to be pages long.

    I've tagged you for a meme if you choose to participate. I hope you haven't done it already. :)

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  5. This is one I've always been a bit wary of and yet it feels like one of those books one *should* read.

    I've always loved the title, though.

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  6. Bellezza: I had done it already, but it still made me happy that you thought of me :)

    And I'd say read it one of these days, yes. For me, the long sentences and chapters ended up not detracting from my enjoyment of it at all. I felt like I was being told a story in an informal, oral way. And storytelling is normally a public act - one thinks of a group of people gathered around a fire listening in awe. In this case, though, I imagined being told an intimate story in a intimate setting, like this story was a secret that I alone was being entrusted with. It was a nice feeling.

    Carl, while I loved this book, I'd be the first to say that it's definitely not for everyone. People seem to either hate it or love it. I'd say it's worth a try - perhaps you'll find yourself among those who love it. And it IS a great title, and one that fits the story very well.

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  7. I really enjoyed this review and think I would like this book. The only other book I've read by him is Chronicle of a Death Foretold. However, I've always been hesitant to take on Hundred Years of Solitude. But after reading your review, this is the one I'd like to read.

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  8. Robin, I'd love to know what you think of it when you do read it.

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  9. I haven't read this yet although it is on my TBR pile. I have read 100 years of solitude though which I really didn't enjoy until the last 50-100 pages. I have heard that this one is better though so I am going to give it a go and see if I like it any better. It's good to hear that someone has enjoyed it :)

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  10. I loved a Hundred Years of Solitude too, so I'm biased :P But I would definitely say this one is easier to get into. It mainly follows two characters through a long period of time, so it's easy to get attached to them and sucked into their stories.

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  11. I'm hoping to read this soon. Like you said people seem to either love it or hate it so I'm a little anxious. It'll be my first by GGM.

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  12. Hi tanabata, thanks for dropping by.

    I think this book is the perfect introduction to GGM. Although it also seems to be love it or hate it, I think it's much more accessible than A Hundred Years of Solitude. I look forward to hearing what you think of it!

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  13. I am another fan of GGM. I also really like the magical realism style; I thoroughly liked Captain Corelli's Mandolin for similar reasons. I loved One Hundred Years, and I really liked this book as well. I read his autobiography too. Nymeth, I'm finding that out that you and I enjoy similar books. It's almost scary. ;)

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  14. Captain Corelli's Mandolin is on my list. Just today I saw the initial passage posted on a "best openings" thread, and I really liked it.

    And I've been noticing the same!

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  15. Like you, Nymeth, when I finished reading it, I was unable to find satisfaction with any other book for a while. Yes, the story lingers. It has been quite some time since I read it, and I'm imagining right this second how much I'd enjoy reading it again. I don't say that about many books. Take care. =)

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  16. There are very few books that made me feel that way, but I love it when it happens. And this is a book I definitely see myself re-reading many times over the years.

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  17. My review's up and I've included a link to yours, hope you don't mind. I didn't love it as much as I'd hoped though, given how so many others love it. I'd still like to try One Hundred Years of Solitude someday.

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