A passionate storyteller and a Pulitzer Prize winning author, Márquez warned those that wanted to define this book as a great love story not to fall into his *trap.* He doesn't set out to define love in Love in the Time of Cholera, instead he tells about the individual relationship his characters have with love throughout their lifetimes, how they express love, and how they experience love in all it's incarnations. Rather than define love, he almost makes the argument against defining love, showing that it is flowing and adaptable, and dependent on a myriad of variables. His characters experience lust, desire, passion, stability, all in the name of love -- that *malady for which there is no cure.* Love is not an emotion, but the destination in this novel.
Marquez's style of magical realism is perfectly matched to the period and characters in this Caribbean seaport village at the turn of the 19th century, where the local folklore and superstitions walk hand in hand with social and political reality. Three contrasting characters are central to the story and form the love triangle: Fermina Daza, the young local beauty; the older Dr. Juvenal Urbino, practical, stylish and much respected in town; and the hopeless romantic, and struggling workman Florentino Ariza, who provides most of the comedy due to his philandering ways and insistence that he is still a virgin in his heart -- which he also claims "has as many rooms as a whorehouse." Each has a singular conception of love. Márquez captures their conflicted spirits, as they age and adapt to their changing situations and environment, brilliantly. There's more comedy than romance in this bittersweet novel -- it's more about "emotions in motion" (as Mae West once said) than Love.
I understand the discrepancy in ratings. My own experience with Márquez got a shaky start when a friend (a literature major) handed me the book and said I would love it -- and I didn't. For at least 80 pages I struggled with the general foreignness and languid pace, and then it seemed as if I was suddenly tossed into a crazy tornado of passionate characters, sex, and intestinal problems. It seemed like a delirious opera takeoff of Don Juan. Whether timing or my own limitations (reading Spanish was a hurdle itself), the book was difficult for me to get into, but ultimately -- and several years later -- rewarding; it took me 3 times to finish this book, which I came to love. The translation is wonderfully done, and this narrator gives a great performance that enhanced the story without interpreting the characters for me.
There is a natural and unforced flow in Márquez's writing, that fits easily into your head, both because of his artistry and because of the emotional recognition in his stories. Even incorporating complex themes, his sentences sparkle with clarity and humanity. An Audible questionnaire asked which authors members would like to see available at Audible.com. I answered Gabriel Garcia Márquez, so I was thrilled to see some of his books on the menu (100 Years of Solitude would have been my choice for the first book, but I noticed it is coming soon). Considered a classic and one of the greatest books written, but I would limit my recommendation to those that want a beautifully written, bittersweet story to linger over and savor.
I'll spare the Comparative Literature review by saying this is a complex read, which I enjoyed very much most of the time, but I would not recommend to everyone.
Mann wasn't awarded the Nobel Prize for literature because he was a bad writer; you can rightly assume this is masterful writing, that the prose is absolutely beautiful--and at the same time often threatens to take over parts of the already elaborate stories, especially some of the soul-tortured characters' philosophical reflections/rantings. The stories themselves are bitingly haunting, full of symbolism, and read like decadent, excessive operas.
I don't mean to drop the name...but a basic knowledge of Nietzche, his philosophies, especially some familiarity with his The Birth of a Tragedy, would be very helpful in understanding the most often misunderstood, and controversial, elements of some of the stories in this small Thomas Mann collection (as would a brief acquaintance [Hello-Wikipedia] with the author's own life history). Enough said... I leave you, the reader and listener, to grapple with the decision of whether or not this might be up your alley.