“It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.  Dr. Juvenal Urbino noticed it as soon as he entered the still darkened house where he had hurried on an urgent call to attend a case that for him had lost all urgency many years before.  The Antillean refugee Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, disabled war veteran, photographer of children, and his most sympathetic opponent in chess, had escaped the torments of memory with the aromatic fumes of gold cyanide.”

I’ll admit it, the reason I wanted to read this book was a completely lame one.  Ever seen the movie “Serendipity”?  John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale?  Anyway, if you haven’t – go look it up on Wikipedia.  If you have, this is the book that she writes her phone number in.  And ever since then, I’ve wanted to read it.

This story has three main characters – a beautiful and self-assured woman, and the two men who love her.  Fermina Daza is the only child of a wealthy mule driver and as a young girl, catches the eye of poor and misfitting Florentino Ariza.  The two begin a furious love letter writing campaign – mostly on the side of Florentino, who becomes sick with the love of Fermina.  However, when he proposes, Fermina realizes the impracticality of marrying an illegitimate child with no prospects who her father hates.  Instead, she marries a local hero – Juvenal Urbino.  Juvenal is a doctor who has been granted the thanks of the city due to his work with preventing and treating the cholera epidemics which frequently ravage the area.  The book follows the three characters and their expressions of love.  Fermina is patently faithful and a supportive wife to Juvenal.  Juvenal is not physically faithful to Fermina all the time but recognizes how much he loves her and needs her.  Florentino is completely shattered by Fermina’s decision to marry someone other than himself and vows to wait until she is a widow and pursue her then.  He spends most of his life working to help the love lives of others, whether by writing passionate love letters for them or fulfilling their sexual needs.  But none of his actions are considered unfaithful to Fermina in his own mind.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really like this book.  I felt like I never got a mental break from the story.  It jumped all over the place.  Sometimes we would follow one character for five minutes then jump back twenty years in the life of another character.  It was often hard to tell who we were focusing on or what year it was. I felt the entire book lacked focus (probably just a shortfall of me as the reader because I hear this book is supposed to be amazing when it comes to literary criticism).  And I know that it has to be deeper than merely examining different aspects of love because it failed to do that in a convincing manner.

And the character of Florentino disgusted me.  I’m not certain as to why, but everytime I was reading about him and his life, I felt uncomfortable and sped through the passage as quickly as possible.  It’s hard to enjoy a book when you have no great love for any of the main characters and therefore have no emotional investment in what happens to them.  I merely continued reading because I wanted to know how it ended.

“Love in the Time of Cholera” was written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and published in 1985.

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