Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel García Márquez

February 18, 2011 at 15:58 (Book Reviews, Fiction, Highly Rated Books) (, , , , , )

10/10

A truly beautiful book, with a tragic flavour and a strong undercurrent of ruin. It is difficult to empathise much or at all with the drunken, philandering hero, and his lifelong obsession with his very own version of Petrarch’s Laura. It is not despite his failings, but because of them that the cretinous hero is such a heartbreakingly beautiful character, placed on display beneath a charming canopy of youthful love, trampled utterly with every kind of impossibility and self-imposed foulness, with something lovely still surviving even in the midst of his murder of young America Vicuna, and his most evil indiscretions.

The supporting characters (to which category Fermina Daza can certainly aspire no higher) are marvellously written, both as intricate studies painted in the most brilliant shades, and as capital pillars of Ariza’s much more central story. Urbino’s life as told in the first fifty pages might be an award-winning novelette in itself, and the poignancy of his death sets a tone of sweet agony that is the novel’s most true legacy, and most noticeable strain. As even this paragon of excellence is brought to failure, the unimpeachable Fermina Daza is splendidly portrayed, as all around her sink into various degrees of depravity, and resemble the sad and ruinous rather than evil malevolence.

One can applaud shamelessly the decision by the author to end the book as he did, blending sentimentality that Ariza himself might have written with an undeniable grittiness and acceptance that through the imperfection and downright cesspit of suicide and depression and ruined men and women, something pure has survived. A page-turner that was difficult to put down, and that leaves a scent like the prologue’s gold cyanide: bittersweet like the scent of almonds, inescapable and beautiful, yet draped in tragedy.

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