Summer Read #1 Complete! Woo-hoo! And, another Back to the Classics Challenge 2012 novel read.
In the beginning, the romance between Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza draws sympathy. It is understandable why an illegitimate poor boy wouldn’t dare approach a young lady of the upper class in a time where class lines were strictly adhered to. I felt sorry for Florentino Ariza, and though aware of the plot, a tiny part of me still hoped that they could a find a way to make their love work. Fermina Daza comes to understand that she does not have the power to fight social norms and marries a rich, respectable doctor. That should’ve been the end, right? Nope.
Florentino Ariza becomes an astute stalker. He keeps his distance, but is always aware of Fermina Daza’s life – which is not difficult since she and her husband, Dr. Juvenal Urbino, are at the forefront of their social class. In the meantime, Florentino Ariza improves his social station and while maintaining his love for Fermina, and other women.
This guy is unbelievable! He is so desperate for the love of one woman that he spends his life feeding off the emotions and bodies of other women. He satiates his body and claims to love the women he is with, yet lives under the illusion that his one true love is, Fermina Daza. His goal is to outlive her husband so they can finally be together.
**spoiler alert in next paragraph** (might wanna skip this paragraph if you want to read the novel)
Most of his exploits are ironically charming. However, there are two occasions when I found him utterly revolting. The first time involves the murder of one of his mistresses by her husband upon discovering her infidelity. The second is when, in pedophile fashion, he grooms and courts his fourteen year-old relative. He was in his sixties. I was flabbergasted that his appetite had no limit and so disgusted. How f*****g dare he??? And, he actually convinces himself that he loves her in order to alleviate his guilt. Ugh.
One other thing that left me disconcerted: the reaction of Florentino Ariza’s many lovers. Almost all of them were dying of love for him. He had 622 sexual liaisons…and nearly none of them were left scorned. Almost any one of them would gladly receive him back into her bed. Even the teenager…Were they that weak? Are we that weak, that a few romantic words will have us on our back and eradicate our common sense? I don’t think so. In this case I beg to differ with Garcia Marquez’s choices in his portrayal of women.
Then again, perhaps this is all a part of the use of magic realism. Reality that is distorted…or, perhaps, reality that is real and makes us so uncomfortable that we need to label it as distorted…
The few women of strength in the novel were those that did not sleep with him: his mother, Transito Ariza; Fermina Daza (who succumbs in her seventies); and, Leona Cassiani, his assistant. They were great characters of intelligence, fortitude and pride. Interesting that he only preys on the weak. Even with Fermina Daza, he wins her over when she is in mourning for the loss of her husband…
In any case, this is a sweeping look at a country and a city during a time of great change. I loved reading all about the geography of Colombia and talking to my mother about the places that are mentioned in the book. The effects of the many wars suffered by the country at the hands of the Liberals and Conservatives made me think of stories of my grandfather and uncle having to leave home in the middle of the night to hide in the mountains because the Conservatives were raiding for Liberals, while my grandmother huddled in a room with her five daughters (one of them, my mother) praying for their safety. A frightening and violent time.
Love in the Time of Cholera challenged my views on love, sexuality, aging and brought to life many moments in Colombian and world history. It is eloquent, simple, honest and its characters are richly textured. Definitely a worthy read.
What novels have you read that stayed with you and challenged you?