Synopsis (Goodreads): In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs–yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again.
I remember loving this book the first time I read it, in Peru, completely submerged in all the glories of Latin American culture. It wasn’t my first experience of Gabriel Garcia Marquez – that came through One Hundred Years of Solitude, which is the sort of book that gives true meaning to all those platitudes that books are a form of escapism…but I digress.
When this book came up as a book club pick, I was more than happy to re-read it because of the nostalgia associated with it. Ah. Nostalgia. My downfall. Shattered be those rose-tinted glasses.
I love Marquez. I feel like I need to reiterate that. Even now, I loved his writing, his settings and descriptions, and his ability to mix the mundane with the fantastic in such a natural way.
“Until that time his greatest battle, fought tooth and nail and lost without glory, was against baldness. From the moment he saw the first hairs tangled in his comb, he knew he was condemned to a hell whose torments cannot be imagined by those who do not suffer them. He struggled for years. There was not a pomade or lotion he did not try, a belief he did not accept, a sacrifice he did not endure, in order to defend every inch of his head against the ravages of that devastation.”
How can you not love someone who writes like that?
So what went wrong and why the downgrade to 3 stars (I have to admit, I even toyed with 2)? In sum…Florentino Ariza creeped me out.
Synopsis reads: “In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love.” But was it love, or more infatuation and obsession, heightened by the excitement of it being forbidden? The romance between Florentino and Fermina develops through brief encounters, lots of letters, and plenty of dreams…call me cynical, but how would you develop a relationship of any depth with that sort of foundation?
Fermina gets over this fling, moves on, and lives her life in a happy marriage. Florentino however goes on to become a Latin American Casanova and having hundreds of affairs all the while maintaining his heart remains true to Fermina and he will eventually win her back and make her happy when her husband dies. Call me old-fashioned but if someone professed their love to me and still slept around to the tune of one woman a month, I’d be fairly skeptical about those feelings. And if you’re about to argue for separation of the physical and the emotional, still, no. Also, as an aside and rationally thinking – 622 lovers and no STDs?…I don’t buy it.
The tipping point into full on creepy came in his final affair with a child, a fourteen-year old placed in his guardianship by her unsuspecting parents, when he was sixty something…this is NOT OK! Take off 2 stars for moral choices. Yes. I judge.