Filed under: book reviews, fiction | Tags: albert camus, feminism, gabriel garcia marquez, love in the time of cholera, oprah, plague, quotes, treatment of women
“It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.”
My (re)reading of Gabriel García Márquez’s novel Love in the Time of Cholera coincides with Oprah selecting the piece for her book club. If you are unfamiliar with Oprah you have yet to be touched by the hand of god, or so it seems. Her book club started in 1996, and Oprah certainly has the Midas touch as every book she selects flies off the shelf and leaves her fans salivating for the next book shipment. It also does not hurt that a film adaptation is coming out November 16th of this year. I personally selected the book as Oprah’s fan base reminded me it was a novel I failed to finish but had always intended on returning to. However, I must express my growing annoyance with the quickly tiring reference to what a wretched book it must be based on the title. (Personally I am quite taken with the title!)
The book is a rather tender romance that begins in the naivety of youth between Fermina and Florentino, but much to Fermina’s father’s chagrin. The two are separated, Fermina realizes that the relationship was folly, and Florentino spends the next 50 or so years waiting for Fermina’s husband to die. The novel is unveiled in three stages of love beginning with youth and ending with old age, and part of the wonder of the story is the “coming and going” (348). It is an intriguing story and beautifully written – Márquez is a poet with words and description.
One issue that I took with the book was that I was not always satisifed with Márquez’s representation of women. I often felt I was reading something by someone who assumed they knew a lot about women, but who’s knowledge ceases after the most recent edition of Cosmo. Now, Fermina did not bother me in particular, but the majority of Florentino’s lovers really are nothing more than pin-ups: glossy but with no warmth and little reality, but here and there painted with a rather misogynistic brush.
I was rather disturbed by Leona Cassian’s rape, which is described as “instantaneous and frenetic love” (258) and when she later in the same passage refers to it as rape it is as if it is almost in jest. Shortly after this we are informed of Florentino’s experience with incest and statutory rape with Americaná. In addition, Love in the Time of Cholera is yet another novel that places a (brief) spotlight on the idea of no means yes: “He beleived that when a woman says no, she is waiting to be urged before making her final decision…“(188).
Despite these issues I still enjoyed the book, but I must confess that through much of the book I kept wishing I was reading Albert Camus’ The Plague instead. It was a book I am glad I read, I feel it has lived up to the “hype,” but I wonder if I should just stick with Marquez’s short stories (which I adore). The movie, as I mentioned, is coming out in about two weeks and I am very excited to see the adaptation.