Synopsis: Fifty-one years, nine months and four days have passed since Fermina Daza rebuffed hopeless romantic Florentina Ariza‘s impassioned advances and married Dr. Juvenal Urbino instead. During that half-centrury, Florentino has fallen into the arms of many delighted women, but has loved none but Fermina. Having sworn his eternal love to her, he lives for the day when he can court her again.
When Fermina’s husband is killed trying to retrieve his pet parrot from a mango tree, Florentino seizes his chance to declare his enduring love. But can young love find new life in the twilight of their lives?
Genre: Romantic / Humour
“To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else’s heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movements of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.”
Time to Complete: 3 months
Seemed appropriate that while based in Colombia I start reading one of the countries most famous and decorated authors – Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I’m not drawn to romantic stories and I approached this book with trepidation not least because it received an endorsement from ‘Slick Willy’ Bill Clinton (‘the most important writer of fiction in any language’).
I decided to swerve from my current binge diet of page turning, thinly plotted action novels and stick my teeth into something a little more substantial. After all, Marquez won a Nobel prize in literature and to my knowledge Lee Child hasn’t (yet).
This was a funny book for a few reasons. Although spaced across almost half a century, it read quite slow. Perhaps the fault was in myself as the reader, more accustomed to cliff hangers at every chapter end. There is also very little dialogue in the book, with the bulk narrated by the author which wasn’t a terrible thing given Marquez’s incredibly descriptive ability.
There were also only five chapters across the 300+ pages. A small thing perhaps, but with each chapter on average spreading out over a decade, it wasn’t always easy to slot back into the passage of time with each extended break from the story.
However, when you take the time to read it the writing is incredibly rich and layered. Marquez had a magical way with words and understanding of human behaviour. It is impossible not to identify with the main characters and their little foibles and quirks. Watching them grow from love struck, young adults into lonely pensioners you feel like you’ve been on a journey with them.
There’s writing and then there’s writing.
The book was a real feast for the senses set in the backdrop of a port in the Caribbean sea. Marquez has the uncanny ability to at times give the reader thought (“The problem with marriage is that it ends every night after making love, and it must be rebuilt every morning before breakfast.”) and then shortly after cause you to giggle (‘his wife’s bad habit of smelling clothes the family took off…so she could tell by the odor if they needed to be laundered even though they might appear to be clean.’).
I could have finished the book much quicker but never felt compelled enough to return. The story never gripped me in a way that I was desperate to discover the fate of the two main characters.
After the conclusion of the first chapter, we are whisked back some fifty years and are only brought back to current affairs on the penultimate chapter, some 150 pages later. Some readers may be fans of back story and how characters have evolved, but I’m not one of them. I want to be led down uncertain paths and continually question where the writer is taking me and there was certainly a lack of mystery with this book.
That being said though, because of the colourful language, prose, memorable characters and fitting conclusion, it’s a book that will certainly stay with me for a long time.
Overall – 8 / 10