Love In The Time Of Cholera – an epic love story
Love in the Time of Cholera is a story about the relationship between Fermina Daza, a well educated but impressionable girl and Florentino Ariza, a wildly romantic, impulsive boy. Their love affair begins when they are teenagers. Florentino notices Fermina in the street and pursues her with love letters. The couple only ever see each other in passing; their love is conducted through notes and letters until two years later, when her father Lorenzo discovers their affair and decides to take Fermina on a trip, to return only when she has forgotten Florentino.
Fermina stays with her family on this trip, and her cousin Hidebranda helps her to re-establish contact with Florentino once again, through telegraph. Yet, two years later she returns and declares she wants nothing more to do with him, instead consenting to marry Dr Juvenal Urbino, whom her father greatly approves of. Upon hearing of their marriage, Florentino initially vows to save his virginity for Fermina, content to wait patiently for the doctor’s death.
Years go by and Florentino gives in to his desires, starting hundreds of affairs which he conducts in secret, in order to make Fermina believe he is waiting for her. This can never discuss with Fermina as once again, they only see each other in passing at public events.
Meanwhile, Fermina’s marriage is unhappy, through infidelity and distrust. We follow their lives for fifty years until the doctor suddenly dies. Upon his death, Florentino once again declares his love. Finally Fermina reciprocates. They sail off on a trip together, raising the yellow flag on board their ship. This flag represents a cholera outbreak, meaning no port will let them dock and they are forever exiled together, sailing the river.
It has been suggested that the cholera of the book’s title is a metaphor for lovesickness. This is a constant theme throughout, especially as Doctor Urbino works tirelessly to eradicate the disease. When, at the end the yellow flag is raised, this is symbolic of Florentino’s complete surrender to his condition.
What I liked about this book is that the characters are flawed. We witness two people desperately trying to move on with their lives yet failing without each other. We follow Florentino on his countless affairs, relationships, loves and one night stands. Yet throughout he is dissatisfied as none of these women are Fermina. We also witness Fermina with her snobbery, trying to be happy with the doctor and their place in society, yet never quite achieving true happiness until the end.
“With her Florentino Ariza learned what he had already experienced many times without realizing it: that one can be in love with several people at the same time, feel the same sorrow with each, and not betray any of them. Alone in the midst of the crowd on the pier, he said to himself in a flash of anger: ‘My heart has more rooms than a whorehouse.”
If you like the long awaited romance you might like Captain Corelli’s Mandolin