Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is available through Gold Coast Libraries.

**Please be aware that book discussions may contain spoilers**

This novel explores the nature of love across space and time, ageing, physical decay and the power of first-time love despite all of these earthly limitations.

While certainly clever in content and style, Marquez’s musings are not for everyone. It really falls in the category of literary fiction and you need to savour the prose he offers up as much as the novel’s meandering plotline.

When I first read this book, winner of the Nobel prize, in my late teens it didn’t grab me and I failed to complete the book. In all honesty the mature themes were quite simply beyond my understanding and interest. Because of this Marquez’s language, frequently described as magic realist, seemed too flowery for me.

While I can see how given a person’s mood or tastes this would still be the case, years on and seven years into my own marriage, I am far more compelled by the novel’s themes and entranced by its style. I am also intrigued by the fact that the lovers in question are elderly with decaying bodies.

Marquez’s title makes the connection between being lovelorn and being ill through the title; ‘Love in the time of Cholera’. Here he suggests that one of the main characters, Florentino Ariza’s lovesickness for his first-time love Fermina Daza is so intense it is almost like the illness of cholera itself. This correlation is one of his many clever literary tricks.

As a lover of poetry this book struck a chord. While I appreciate precise and lean prose, I also enjoy writing that is thick with symbology, imagery and visual motifs – this book has so many of these; water, flowers and birds, which give his writing style such original flair and a sense of the exotic. There are also comic touches as he describes the lunacy of Florentino’s love some 50 years on as an old man in a decaying body with the passion and zest for his beloved of a teenage boy.

Discussion questions:

1. Do you like Marquez’ writing style or do you feel it is too flowery?
2. How do you feel about the portrayal of love in all its intensity and suffering, is it a well-rounded one?
3. In what ways does the passionate love between two people in their 70s challenge traditional notions of love affairs?
4. This book was the winner of the Nobel Prize, do you feel it is worthy of this title and why?
5. How does this book challenge the notions of the elderly as feeble-minded and lacking in physical passion and expression?
6. How do you feel about the book’s ending, with Florentino and Fermina drifting endlessly on a boat because of a supposed cholera outbreak onboard?
7. Do you like the magic realist style of Marquez’s writing? What do you like about it?

Helpful links:

Review of Love in the Time of Cholera
Author’s Wikipedia entry
Article on the author
Reviews on Good Reads