Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The One-Yr, 25 Books Overture: Love In the Time of Cholera

*not my book cover

I am having difficulty writing about this book because I did not have a religious experience with this one the way everyone undoubtedly had. As I recoil for the impact of lynching from all the devotees, I will concede that stories of undying love and waiting a lifetime for your forever one is heroic.

Book Review:

A young Florintino Ariza falls in love for eternity with a young Fermina Daza. They are living in a thick Catholic Latin American country at a time when if one wanted to be suitable, the person would court through letters and through proper channels i.e., a chaperone. Yet despite the odds Fermina and Florintino Ariza fall in love. Ariza at this point hasn’t had much luck as he is the illegitimate son of a man whose family owns the river transport of their city. Nameless and penniless, his love is unrequited not by Fermina but by her father and the society and customs they are imprisoned in. Upon discovery of their non-tactile love affair, the nuns in Fermina’s convent school and her father vehemently rejects any possibility of their union and orders them to cease and desist. After her defiance, Fermina was forced by her father to take an arduous and long trip far from the city in the hopes that she will forget Ariza.

Upon returning, a changed and hard-bitten Fermina finds that her love has been washed out for Ariza and she refuses him flatly this time around. Fermina then meets her husband, Juvnenal Urbino, a man of good standing, a physician in fact and she decides to marry him. Urbino is the dashing sort, popular, rich, highly educated, the works, sort of the antithesis of Ariza. One can't really refer to him as "the villain" as he too has a good heart and even befriends Ariza, unaware of his history with his wife.

For over half a century the scenes in the book volleys between Ariza’s barren existence interrupted only by his dalliances with widows or harlots, Dr. Urbino's life in the community and with his wife and Fermina’s seemingly blissful family life. Ariza's and Fermina's situation changes after Urbino dies and they become reacquainted and pick up where they left off.

Ariza is impractical and a very melodramatic lover to Fermina to the point of being fantastical, example, upon receiving his very first letter from her, he reads it over and over again as he eats rose petals mindlessly the entire day. He writes poetry endlessly and everything he does or plans is in the light of Fermina, even as she actively lives her life as a wife to another man and a mother to that man’s kids for more than half a century. While many will see this as exponentially romantic I see pathos, falling in love is beautiful, but not to this chimerical extent. I will concede, the violin playing at the catacombs at night for Fermina is dreamy; and the night where he supposedly plays for her one last time prior to departing after her wedding to Urbino broke me to tears. But with him coming back home so soon only to hit the streets like a stray dog in heat, the chivalry fades. Of course this is supposed to be justified because he keeps his heart “a virgin” for her, but syphilis or gonorrhea be danged (which is inferred he contracts), the book explodes in chapters of these backdoor liaisons.

The redeeming character in this story is that of Fermina Daza, in the case of the nuns and her father where everyone else is obtuse, she isn’t. Amidst victimization she does not buckle. She survives a heartbreak and uses all her talents to her advantage, her realism is a sort of a light in her imperceptive world. That's my girl. As for cholera, yeah, there was an outbreak of the disease in the country the story was set in but none of the major characters die from it. Why was it called that you’ll ask? I guess because it’s more convenient than calling it, “The Importunate Nerd, A Dashing Doctor and the Girl They Both Get Anyway, But Not At The Same Time.”

Devotees, that’s just my 2 cents OK? peace. 

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