I enjoyed reading One Hundred Years of Solitude and Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, so moving to Love in Time of Cholera was just the book to start reading. The story follows Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza and is set in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Like Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s books, it is difficult to talk about the plot in brief or in an uncomplicated manner. So, I won’t try to explain all of it. Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza fell in love when they were young, but Fermina ended up marrying a doctor Juvenal Urbino instead. The plot of the novel spans years of Florentino and Fermina’s long life. We can see the characters from teenagers to marriage to kids and old age. The character growth is an interesting aspect to read about because we get to experience the complete character arc.
Florentino and Fermina’s love story is mainly carried out through the letter when they are young. Florentino is madly in love with Fermina since he saw her and sometimes, it does feel obsessive. She is widowed at the age of 72 when Florentino comes back and declares his love for her. The love story is fused with magical realism, and it elevates the story. The span of 50 years of separation is harder for Florentino because he could never forget her. Fermina rejects him when she feels disillusioned with their love.
Love is a powerful theme throughout the novel. Florentino Ariza and Fermina have a passionate love, and for Florentino, it goes from infatuation to an almost obsessive sort of love. Fermina doesn’t marry Dr. Urbino out of love, but their relationship evolves as time passes. They come to care about each other and have stability which Fermina appreciates. There are different types of love in the book. Even the familial dynamics are different for characters. Florentino grew up with only his mother, his father never openly acknowledged his existence. Fermina loses her mother at a young age, but her aunt kind of fulfills that role in her life.
In the novel, sex and morality tend to go hand in hand as themes. Sex is often an escape for characters, especially Florentino. With sexual pleasure, he forgets for a moment about his love for Fermina. There is a power dynamic to these situations which is reflective of the society back then. Some of the actions are morally questionable. I wasn’t sure how the cholera part in the title would play out, but it is mostly symbolic. Florentino’s mother compares the signs of infatuation in her son with the symptoms of cholera. The book explores a range of human emotions that keeps you captivated.
Love in Time of Cholera has a few negatives with its portrayal of characters, and some undercurrent themes seem toxic. Those elements do not hold up well in today’s scenario, so I had to consciously overlook them. It’s written beautifully and sets up an interesting world with characters we see grow through time. The story wasn’t how I expected it to be; it was very different. Although, it is a good book and I liked it.
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