This is a really hard book to review because the thing is, I hated the main character. I didn’t hate the book, just Florentino Ariza. There were times when I had to physically close the book and look away to overcome my annoyance with him and I certainly can’t see him as the champion of true love which is how he sees himself. If he’d been pursuing me he wouldn’t have got very far I can tell you that for nothing!
The story itself was written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and was originally published in 1985 (in Spanish with the English translation arriving 3 years later) and tells an epic story of the love between Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza which spans more than 50 years.
To begin with we are introduced to Dr Juvenal Urbino (Fermina Daza’s husband) as he attends the scene of his friend’s death. I liked Dr Urbino, he seemed like a nice old man if a little eccentric but he was certainly a character I felt I would enjoy reading. Alas it was not to be as Dr Urbino dies an improbable death within the first chapter and Florentino Ariza makes his appearance. Florentino arrives at the funeral for Dr Urbino in order to declare his undying love for the Widow Urbino which he has nurtured over the 51 years, 9 months and 4 days since she rejected him.
Now I can appreciate that it must have been hard loving her from a distance for all these years and I understand that now her husband is out of the picture, Florentino wants to make her move but at the funeral?? Fermina Daza is understandably upset and unmoved and the seed of my dislike for Florentino is born.
We then go back in time to discover the story of their love and the seed of my dislike began to grow. Florentino is ridiculously romantic – he sees Fermina Daza by chance one day and falls in love with her immediately so begins to pursue her. Well, he says pursue, I say stalk but this is the 21st century, perhaps standards have changed.
I don’t want to give any plot threads away but as you already know, all does not go well for Florentino as his true love marries another man. He goes on to have a great number of exploits with other women some of which are seriously questionable from a legal standpoint and he falls in love at the drop of a hat all of which make me dislike him more.
Fermina Daza on the other hand has a rather boring life but is still a more enjoyable read than Florentino’s side of things.
The morals of this book are severely distorted. Issues such as rape, paedophilia and prostitution are mentioned without so much as the batting of an eyelid and I find it incredibly difficult to see the ‘love’ in these scenarios. Florentino writes lengthy essays on love and considers himself to be a desperately romantic man but I find him to be a deeply unattractive personality and were I to receive one of his epic letters I’m afraid I’d be strongly inclined to burn it. Sadly if I were to do so he’d probably interpret the smoke as a sign of my love. Did I mention he’s somewhat deluded?
Despite my dislike of Florentino and my doubts about Marquez’s idea of love I did enjoy the book although I’m not quite sure why. The chronology is a little confusing as it jumps around as though Marquez gets sidetracked by an extra bit of characterisation he just has to add in whether it makes sense or not and I was frequently confused about where, when and who was featuring at any given time.
Having said that I quite liked the anecdotal nature of the prose, it was almost as if the story was being told to me by an actual person rather than a planned out and edited book which made it more personable. There were moments that made me smile and the chance meetings between Fermina and Florentino during the years of her marriage were believably awkward.
So it’s a book you need to concentrate on and perhaps if I were more of a romantic I’d be able to see beauty in Florentino’s passion but I’m afraid that I just wanted him to move on and get over it. I spent the whole time I was reading this book hoping Fermina Daza would stick to her original resolve and not give in to Florentino’s persistence but whether she does or not you will have to read it yourself to find out.