My shattered illusions

Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I first read Marquez’s masterpiece when I was still a student.  It fast became one of my absolute favourites and for many many years I’ve recommended it at every opportunity.

I bathed in the uplifting and incredibly moving story of faithful love.  The message that love conquers all, left me warm, fuzzy and hopeful.  As for Florentino Ariza – a true romantic hero.  I read it alongside my dear friend, I guess it was part of our own first memories of romance.

So, I couldn’t wait to recommend it to my lovely bookclub, and spent the last week re-reading it.  Well, as I said to the bookclub girls tonight – my illusions of love and my favourite book are totally shattered.

What was once a romance is now clearly a tragedy.  In fact, its a book that equates love with illness – primarily cholera.  How did I miss that first time round?!

As for missing things the first time round – Florentino is no hero at best he’s a creep.  Perhaps even a paedophile creep, with stalking tendencies.  Urgh – he made my flesh crawl.  Where once I saw romance in his inability to move on, now I just wanted to kick him where it hurt, and yell “get on with it”.

When I finished I didn’t have that warm glow, about love conquering all but an understanding that time ravages us all.  Death awaits folks! Get ready!

Yet, maybe I’ve taken more from the book now (thanks in part to bookclub chat).  For example, the younger me, paid no attention to the taboo of elderly love.  No doubt I glossed over that in my rush to celebrate that love conquers all.  Today, I can see that Marquez was offering us so much more than the more simplistic book I first read.

Marquez’s descriptors of life in this Caribbean island are extraordinary.  The term “bringing something to life” is over used – here I think its probably an understatement.  As you read not just the story and characters came to life but his world – the smells, the heat, the noises.  It’s visual writing at its absolute finest.  To think it was written in Spanish and translated – what an achievement.

Would I recommend it again?  Yes, but to different people and in different circumstances.  I’m blushing now to remember recommending it to a friend going through a divorce and bereavement.  I’m glad she ignored my advice now.

So, which hero’s memory will I ruin next?  Mr Darcy?  Oh please not Heathcliffe surely?