Firstly, I apologise for how long it took for this review to manifest itself. In truth, Love in a time of Cholera took me forever to read. This is such an intense novel that I felt the need to be completely relaxed when reading it so as not to become mentally exhausted!
But finish it I did, and found that despite my somewhat hindered reading of it, it was because it was challenging that I enjoyed it so much. Marquez uses such contrasting characters and uses their surroundings, traits and experiences to comment on the society of the time, its attitudes and history. The trials and tribulations of love are set against the stark realities of life.
The narrative flows smoothly making it easy to follow, even with the changes from present, to past and back to present again. The style of writing is implemented with such skill that it allows for the slow plot building, scene setting and wonderfully thorough and complex characters. Although Marques uses the novel to touch on some key issues of life and survival in such a harsh setting, it was not so heavy that the reader gets bogged down by oppressive topics, or loses the focus of the story being told. The title may be a little heavy, potentially off-putting for some casual readers who prefer light novels or topics. But for someone who considers them-selves an ‘avid’ reader, this is a worthwhile challenge.
The first few chapters initially can feel irrelevant, but continue reading and you find they are wholly necessary for Marquez’s successful constructing of such passionate and life-like characters. It is at times impossible to read this and remain an observer. The detailing is so fine and use of empathetic language so finely matched, that I complicity felt Florentino and Fermina’s pain as if it were my own. I dare say you would too.
These first chapters also leaned towards reading almost like a collection of short stories. Each chapter is a new story, woven together by the links between the characters, coming together to make one big encompassing tale. Each individual tale is intrinsically linked to the next, but the language is used so fluently and consistently throughout, that there is never any fear of it being disjointed. Initially the reader may feel the novel goes off on tangents ‘willy nilly’ , but persevere and you’ll find that Marquez is simply building his characters, allowing the reader to have a perfect understanding of their history, so they are better equipped to deal with and judge the sequence of events in the coming chapters.
Following the lives of people living in another time a world away from my own was fascinating. The complexity of those lives which Marquez touches on can truly inspire you to find the motivation missing from your own life. One choice Marquez makes is not to promote his characters as angelic. Beyond that, he depicts all his characters deficiencies as well as their positive traits, thus making them more real for his readers.
Marquez allows his readers to follow his characters so succinctly, that the intensity of the content softens as the characters age. Although the ending can feel somewhat abrupt, it also offers the reader some consolation of future joy; for the characters in which the reader has become so invested. This calming ending projects the notion to the reader, that perhaps all the hardships suffered throughout were worth it in the end.
Overall this novel is extraordinarily well written and certainly one of the more compelling and challenging novels I have read since graduating. I’d recommend it to anyone up for such a challenge.
© Gemma Feltham March 15 2013