Monday, October 22, 2007

Gabriel Garcia Marquez/LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA


Let me start by saying this is going to be a negative review of a beloved book; sorry to those who disagree, and please tell me candidly about why you liked/loved the book if you did. Also let me say that although I'm definitely a contrarian and probably would have enjoyed the book less (although not on purpose) simply because Oprah selected it, I actually started reading this about a month before her announcement and didn't really enjoy it from the beginning (hence the long time it took me to get through). So although contrarian this review is also genuine, not just inflammatory.

There are some great passages, as always with Marquez. He has an uncanny ability to make a thumbnail sketch of a character or a situation but to find the one or two isolating details that make the whole description glow with novelty. Which is nice. But the book dragged for me despite these little gems.

For me, the elephant in the room--the elephant I've been ignoring since I read and loved HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE--is pedophilia. Do we seriously forgive Florentino Ariza for first deflowering and then abandoning his 13-year-old niece? Especially at that time, when her life would have been effectively ruined? And do we honestly believe that they had a good working relationship despite their gaps in age, that they got along like a good married couple and understood each other as two adults? This is something I could never overlook in real life and I can't get past it in the novel. Also, I'm recalled of Aureliano Buendias's child-wife (how old was she? Eight?) and also of the opening lines of MELANCHOLY WHORES. I support fiction that voices subconscious and that offers a realistic treatment of what we secretly think about but pedophilia seems to present an uncrossable threshhold for me. I can't celebrate a character who forgives himself for it.

There's also an element of forgiven misogyny that I didn't feel about his previous books. But how is it that all the women that Florentino Ariza chose to womanize with were perfectly fine with his ending the liasons? Was it just that he succeeded in choosing a rare string of women whose hearts would not be broken when they were abandoned by their lover? There is so much resiliance among his women--women who eventually reject him, who good-naturedly let him leave, etc. I don't buy it because I don't relate to it. Fermina Daza herself is a cold-hearted woman, unrelatable in her inability to be affected emotionally by anyone or anything.

Those were my problems with the book. I'm sure a lot of people on this blog have read this novel already, and I hope you'll tell me what you thought.

9 comments:

angelle said...

hmm. you know, it's funny, while i read it, those thoughts crossed my mind too, but somehow i forgave him for it, maybe because of the whole magical realism quality where i was basically willing to take on anything and forgive him for it. somehow, the fact that he has loved her for all these decades makes him an ultimately forgivable character for me, and everything else is blurred in the mix. i see what you are saying though, perhaps if i'd been forced to stop and think about it, i would have been horrified and disgusted, but as it were, it was kinda like, oh okay, this is all just part of this long past that he's trying to get through. he's living his life, trying to move on, but ultimately he can't. it doesn't make it right, but the romantic in me forgave him for it, possibly because of marquez's treatment of it.

i really enjoyed this book, although it possibly had more to do with the writing and my own romanticism than with the plot itself, and while i dont have an EXTREMELY strong opinion about the book, i thought it was great. but i totally see what you're saying here.

Leigh Russell said...

Hi there - I did try to join your book club but (as moonrat will testify) I'm not exactly expert at blogging! I've posted the proposed cover design of my new book on my blog and would love to know what you think of it.

Ello said...

Thank you Moonrat! ONe of the only other person I know who did not love this book! I've received out right stares of astonishiment and disapproval for not liking Cholera but I have the same unforgivable issues. Also, I was quite frankly appalled by his unrelenting misogyny all in the name of his one true love. Bah. Also, his lack of remorse over getting his lover killed on top of sleeping with his young neice was just too much for me. And I loved 100 years of solitude. Marquez is an incredible writer but I find it hard to think of this book as a romance.

moonrat said...

Phew. Thank YOU. I was beginning to wonder if I was crazy!! One of my coworkers is REALLY disappointed in me for not liking it.

Church Lady said...

This is funny (for me, right now). I'm a children's book writer, so that's what I'm used to reviewing. There's a famous book called "The Giving Tree" which everyone adores and I simply hate. The tree is 'female' and continues to give, give, give until she's ultimately chopped down. Ew.

'Cholera' is on my list for this weekend (yes, because of Oprah), so I am now quite intrigued. I'm glad these comments are up so I can read with more discernment!

moonrat said...

make sure you come back after you've read it and let us know...

Madigan said...

I am half way through this book and seriously contemplating not finishing it. It has to be one of the most mundane, cliched (and dare I say dumbest) books I have ever read. I found myself rolling my eyes on more than one occasion. I've been trying to find negative reviews but it is astonishing how many people worship this book. I dont even think his writing is that impressive, maybe his eloquence was lost in translation? I should have bailed when I saw Oprah's name plastered on the cover. I havent read it in two weeks because I literally cannot bring myself to pick it up again, it is that bad. Its a sterotypical love story on steroids. Am I crazy because everyone else seems to think this book was written by the hand of God. I'm probably so frustrated because I expected more out of it. I will try to brave through it and hope it gets better. Wish me luck!

beverly seaton said...

I was troubled by the pedophilia in Solitude but I loved the book. However when I read reviews of Love in the Time of Cholera I decided not to buy it. Marquez seems to always be approving of pedophilia,and his sex between the brothers with the inherited large sex organs and tiny young girls (there are three instances of this)was more male fantasy than magical realism.

Maree A. said...

I'm with Madigan. Got to page 112 and just can't be bothered finishing it - or even finishing the chapter. And for me, someone who ALWAYS finishes a book she starts, no matter how dire, that's really saying something.

The sad thing is I can't even put my finger on why I don't feel inclined to finish it. Which I guess opens me up to all sorts of criticism, but there it is. And yanno? I can't even get excited about hauling it off the bookshelf and trying to analyze exactly why I gave up on finishing it. Probably the nearest I can come to explaining is, so many books (to read), so little time. Or, to paraphrase the saying about wine, life's too short to read bad books.

Hmmm. Maybe if all my other books went up in a puff of smoke and it was the only one left? Perhaps I'll pack it and take it on my Christmas holiday and force myself to finish it. Shudder. That's kinda like looking forward to a dose of castor oil. And Santa knows, I've been a really good girl this year so I reckon I deserve better.