This book has been a favorite title of mine for a long time. It rolls off the tongue and is suggestive without telling the whole tale. I had not, however, actually read it. When the audiobook popped up in my Audible feed, I was excited to remedy this omission and step into the world of this great writer as I drove. When Garcia Màrquez died, the time was ripe to finally give this classic a listen.
Listening to this book was perfect. Garcia Màrquez’ translated prose most often sounds like poetry (much like that of Maya Angelou, whom I’m listening to currently). Although the books was many hours long, no matter how long the gap between listening sessions, I was able to dive right back into the world of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, who fall in love through letters when Fermina is just a sheltered school girl. Forced apart by Fermina’s father, the two go separate ways and when they reunite, Fermina does not know what she saw in the unusual young man. Florentino never loses his passion for Fermina, however, and keeps her in his sight as well as in his heart. He pursues numerous love affairs, but keeps them so private that the town rumors believe him a homosexual. He pursues his career with the intent to become worthy of the higher class Fermina Daza and rises through the ranks and quietly accumulates wealth. Fermina marries for position and to meet her family’s expectations, increasing her own social position in the process, to the patrician Dr. Juvenal Urbino. The two fall in love on their European honeymoon, but lose track of that young love on their return home. Their marriage follows the path of many marriages–children, love, less love, more love, banality, and an affair, retribution, widening distance, reconciliation, then Urbino’s accidental death while trying to retrieve Fermina’s bird from a tree.
The novel follows first Fermina, then Urbino, then Florentino. Following Urbino’s death, after an initial misstep, Florentino renews his slow, steady courtship of the now aged Fermina. What follows is beautiful. Fermina resists his attentions as she deals with her grief. Garcia Màrquez’ description of her stages of grief is beautiful and painful and became my favorite passages in the book.
Love takes many forms through different stages of our lives, as this novel captures. It ennobles, it devastates, it disappoints. Here love is not only for the young and is, in fact, at its most perfect in those our culture often denies the right to love and desire.