Book Review: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

In Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez takes on some heavy topics, including obsessive, unrequited love; marital love and fidelity; and aging and death.

I read Love in the Time of Cholera as part of the 2022 Thoughtful Reading Challenge. September’s challenge was to read a book written by a Central or South American author in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

A quick summary: The novel takes place somewhere in the Caribbean (the author doesn’t name the city or country) in the late 19th century / early 20th century. The book opens with the death of the elderly and well-respected Dr. Juvenal Urbino, who leaves behind his grieving widow, Fermina Daza. Fermina is approached by Florentino Ariza at her husband’s funeral, who inappropriately expresses his undying love for her. Turns out he’s been pining away for her for over fifty years.

Fermina and Florentino had been involved when they were very young. In fact, Florentino started stalking her (sorry, there’s no other way to put it) when Fermina was a 13-year-old schoolgirl. They corresponded for several years through torrid telegrams and letters, and the one time they actually came face-to-face, Fermina rejected him because she realized their relationship was just an illusion (and that Florentino was rather pitiful).

love in the time of cholera

The book then describes, in great detail, fifty years of the three main characters’ lives. Florentino never gets over Fermina, instead trying to find solace in 622 affairs and one-night stands (he journaled about all of them so he was able to keep count – ew!). Meanwhile, Fermina marries young and struggles with what it means to be a good wife and mother. And her husband, Dr. Urbino, becomes a powerful civic figure and succumbs to infidelity.

I’ll be up front with my opinion – this highly acclaimed book was not for me, and I’ll explain why. But first, let’s discuss the strengths.

Gabriel García Márquez’s prose is beautiful. He was a talented writer whose descriptions of this turn of the century Caribbean city were stunning. I really enjoyed the history and the imagery of Caribbean life he evoked. I can only imagine his writing was even better in his native Spanish. I also liked how he wrote about marital love. Fermina and the doctor’s union had many ups and downs, but in the end, they deeply loved each other and were together over fifty years.

Here’s the part I didn’t like. Florentino was a stalker and a sexual predator who was positioned as some kind of romantic martyr. He would watch Fermina’s house for days on end and go to places where she might be just to get a glimpse of her. This happened across the span of fifty years. To me, the fact that he couldn’t move on when Fermina rejected him isn’t a sign of “great love,” it’s just creepy. Add the fact that he “hunted” for women to sleep with, whom the author once labeled as his “victims,” and you have a major sex offender on your hands. Oh, and as a 70/80 year-old man, he had an affair with a 14 year-old relative. Gross.

At one point, I thought maybe the author was using Florentino as a satirical character, but I don’t think that’s the case. I just didn’t buy him as a sympathetic, romantic character, and that’s the main reason I didn’t care for this book.

If you’ve read Love in the Time of Cholera, I’d love to hear your opinion. Maybe you can change my mind (but probably not :)).

If you read a book by a Central or South American author this month, please tell us all about it!

**Reminder – October’s challenge is to read a book set in Germany. Check out 15 Interesting Books Set in Germany for some ideas.

7 thoughts on “Book Review: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

  1. Michelle – when I saw this was your latest book, I had to reply! I read this book a long time ago and I secretly wondered why it was so popular because I could barely get through it!! It’s not for me either – and I applaud that you stuck with it. At the time it was a best seller/hot book and I could never figure out why!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for commenting, Lori! I’m sometimes stumped about why certain books become best sellers, and I always wonder if I’m just not “getting” it. Glad to hear you had the same reaction. 🙂


  2. I think your “modern” reading of this classic is right on. What used to be considered romantic behavior, we now understand as predatory. Good call! I will say this book has one of the best first sentences in all of literature. But that’s all.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lori—My book club read this years ago because of all of the acclaim and we agree—none of us really cared for it or “got it” and Florentino was creepy to us. So I’m with you on this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Who picked this book anyway?! And then, I didn’t even read it. Sorry. 😦 Years ago, when I read 100 Years of Solitude by Marquez, I couldn’t figure out what I missed. I didn’t like that book and figured I just wasn’t smart enough to “get it.” After reading your review and the replies of your followers, maybe he’s actually way overrated? Great review and likely a more accurate description of what has been known as Latin Machismo for too long.


  5. Thank goodness I am not the only person who felt this way. I agree with your comments about the prose and the historical references; Marquez captured the essence of another time and place beautifully. However, Florentino’s behaviour was beyond disturbing. I have also wondered if Marquez was commenting on Latino machismo attitudes of the day but regardless, I have never hated a main character as much as I hate this one.

    Liked by 1 person

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