Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A couple confusing clichés

Last year before reading One Hundred Years of Solitude, I was told that the book is impossible to set aside. Almost everyone I knew who had read it recommended it wholeheartedly and when I needed a book for a trip I was taking, I decided to bring Gabriel García Márquez's masterpiece. Turns out everyone was telling the truth - I started reading One Hundred Years of Solitude on the afternoon flight home and was barely able to set the book aside for dinner and sleep. I finished the book the following morning.

The situation I faced with Love in the Time of Cholera (the predictable, cliched second pick for García...) was quite different. It's García's writing I like, in a way I can't really put my finger on. Few writers make me enjoy language quite so much as García, and I like that. On the other hand, I found myself occasionally struggling with the story of this modern classic. Everybody positively loves Love in the Time of Cholera... so why did I only like it? See, much as I like intricacies and complexities, and time jumps and character jumps... I wasn't too into all the characters. In fact, I suspect I liked some characters more than I was supposed to (for the sake of the narrative, that is). There were short moments (short!) that I even felt like skimming through boring passages.

I suspect that because I liked One Hundred Years of Solitude so much and expected a lot from Love in the Time of Cholera, I was disappointed. It's unfair to judge a book by what it isn't - I've said this before and I'll say it again. Still, it's not that I disliked the book. Heck, I even liked it a lot! Its only problem is that it didn't flow as I hoped it would. How do I judge a book like that?


  1. I've never read 100 Years but really did not like Love in the Time of Cholera. I hated the main characters. Maybe I should give 100 yrs a try.

  2. I think they are very different types of books. Where one is very sweeping and fantastical and has a lot of magical realism in it, the other is more of a plebeian story of a man and a woman's great love. I remember having much the same reaction after reading both of them, and though I did love Love in the Time of Cholera, it just wasn't the same love I had for 100 Years of Solitude. Both great books, just very different.

  3. I had a similar reading experience with Out Stealing Horses so I re-read it, boldly concluding that I both loved and hated it. Why can't we have conflicting, confused, or tepid impressions about a book? I do.

  4. I also didn't love Love in the Time of Cholera, but it has been years since I read it, so I suspect I should give it another try. I'm going to be reading One Hundred Years of Solitude later this year, and now I have high hopes.

  5. I never read One Hundred Years of Solitude, but I have read Love in the Time of Cholera - and I agree with you. I never felt it flowed properly. I had a similar experience with Arturo Perez-Reverte... LOVED The Flanders Panel, couldn't get past the first chapter of The Nautical Chart. I felt as if I was reading two completely difference authors - and then I realized they were translated by two different people. The same thing seems to be true of the two books you read (I did a little research). Do you think that could have been what happened? I really believe the write (or wrong) translator can make or break a book.


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