Love in the Time of Cholera was my first experience in reading Nobel Prize winning author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The mix of love and heartache made this a great read.
The book opened with Dr. Juvenal Urbino providing his professional expertise to the death of his friend, Jeremiah de Saint Amour. Later that day, Dr. Urbino, too, would meet his fate. The real story, however was the relationship of Dr. Urbino’s wife, Fermina Daza, and her childhood sweetheart, Florentino Ariza.
Florentino Ariza became entranced with the school girl as soon as he saw her while delivering a telegram to her father. She was constantly escorted by her aunt and that left little chances of Florentino Ariza making her acquaintance. Aunt Escolastica realized the young man who always sat waiting in the park nearby reading poetry was waiting on Fermina Daza. So she did her best to provide the opportunity for him to approach the young lady. For months he continued this habit until he was brave enough to approach and ask the aunt to give them some privacy. He delivered her a letter and asked if he could speak to her in the future. Love letters began and continued for a couple of years until Fermina Daza’s father requested a meeting with Florentino Ariza. Lorenzo Daza demanded the boy leave his daughter alone and Florentino refused. The father believed his daughter was worthy of a more distinguished suitor. Lorenzo Daza sent his daughter away to live with her late mother’s family to let the love cool down. As Florentino worked in the telegraph office, he made the connections to send messages back and forth with Fermina during her time away. Suddenly upon her return, Fermina realized she did not truly love Florentino and left him. Florentino’s heart was broken to the point of illness.
Dr. Urbino soon met the Daza family and began courting the young woman as well. With more success, Dr. Urbino found Fermina’s father Lorenzo agreeing to the marriage. Fermina and Dr. Urbino were married for 50 years, while Florentino Ariza patiently waited for Dr. Urbino’s death for his second chance with his true love, Fermina Daza.
Fermina Daza’s marriage was filled with little love. After the death of her husband, Florentino soon returned to proclaim his love for her. She still did not love him, but in fact, resented him for calling on her so soon after her husband died. Florentino did not give up, he began writing her again. These later letters were not so much love letters, but more of a philosophy of love, which struck a chord with her. She began inviting him to weekly tea, which turned into a weekly card game with her son and his wife.
The books theme revolved around the sickness of heartbreak. During Florentino Ariza’s lowest points, his mother feared he had cholera as physical illness joined the emotional sickness of the heartbroken. He spent many lonely years longing to rejoin his sweetheart, passing the time with 622 lovers who each paled in comparison to the sweet Fermina. At one point in the story, he saw her in a mirror in a restaurant, and watched her eat and talk with friends and family for over an hour. He then offered the proprietor anything he could to buy the mirror off the wall and take it home.
While most of the book was sad, you couldn’t help but cheer on Florentino Ariza as he waited patiently and then seized the opportunity to again pursue his love. In reality, he was not the most likable character. The women he found love with included a 14 year-old girl he was the guardian of, along with 621 other women, often widows and married mistresses. However, the heartache he suffered and pain he felt made the reader sympathize with the character and hope that it all worked out in the end.