I’ve never read anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and picked this book up over Christmas from my brother, who was quite willing to lend me this book he hasn’t read himself yet and isn’t high up on his list because he finds Marquez too ‘wordy’.
Which, yes, is true, but I didn’t find his style of writing lengthy or heavy in detail in the kind of way that makes you feel that if you put the book down for a few days, and then pick it up again, that you will not have the foggiest idea of what is going on anymore (which is always how Tolstoy novels make me feel).
To summarise the plot without any major spoilers: boy(Florentino) falls in love with girl (Fermina Daza), sends her love letters, they have a romantic correspondence for a few years which her father discovers and disapproves of, then girl marries a prominent doctor and cuts ties with Florentino. The book describes the lives of the two protagonists over the next 50 years (give or take) until the husband of Fermina eventually falls out of a tree whilst trying to rescue his pet parrot and dies. The culmination of the story is how Florentino and Fermina attempt to rediscover their love for each other in the twilight of their lives, despite popular perceptions of the impropriety of it all (they are at this stage about 70 years old).
I did enjoy reading this novel and like the way the author describes a single love story throughout the ages. The only issue I had was that on some level I wasn’t convinced. And what I mean by this is that I did not much like the Fermina Daza protagonist and the author does not accurately convey the reason for Florentino’s obsession with her (in fact, they never really meet in person and their interactions are mainly, in the beginning, through letters – although this is probably characteristic of the time period). Her decision to marry the doctor and her casual rejection of Florentino (based on her sudden impression that he seems more like a ‘shadow’ than a real person) makes her seem, if anything, weak in character and somewhat bland. Her subsequent semi-unhappiness with her domestic life with said doctor therefore came across to me as deserved and I didn’t really feel anything for her predicament.
Overall, it’s as much a story about growing old and the questioning of prejudices, disguised as a love story, definitely worth a read. Maybe I will read another Marquez novel to get a better idea of his style.