Look up what many critics have said about Love in the Time of Cholera, and you might think you're about to read a sappy romance novel. Go ahead – Google it. You'll find plenty of reviews along the lines of: "OMG, this book is sooooo romantic!" After all, what could be sweeter than the story of love at first sight? What could be more erotic than smoldering glances, nocturnal serenades, and passionate love letters, all set in a steamy sub-tropical setting?
Hold on a second, though. Is this novel really just a racy, exotic melodrama, or is something else going on here? Consider that Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez (or Gabo, for short) has warned readers of Love in the Time of Cholera "to be careful not to fall into my trap." Just like the main characters Florentino and Fermina, it's easy for us to get swept up in this story of forbidden love and lose track of its dark underside. Sure, Florentino's enduring passion for Fermina can be seen as romantic…but it's also a little obsessive. His behavior is sort of sweet…but then again, it's kind of stalkerish.
You might think of this book, published in 1985, as García Márquez's 350-page response to the question, "What is love?" Like all of his works, though, Gabo's fourth novel fails to provide us with easy answers or clear-cut definitions. The Nobel Prize-winning author is a big fan of ambiguity, so instead of resolving our idea of love, he tends to complicate it. Thus, Love in the Time of Cholera contains not only one central love triangle, but also a myriad of other illustrations of what love can be: young and old, faithful and unfaithful, respectable and shameful, sexual and chaste. And everything in between.
As for the love affair between Florentino and Fermina, which is it? Romantic or obsessive? Sweet or scary? Selfless or selfish? That's hard to say, but we think it might be best expressed in Facebook terms: "It's Complicated."
Worried you won't be interested in a novel that's all about love and sex? Nah, we didn't think so.
Just in case you need a little extra convincing, though, allow us to make a suggestion. Imagine Florentino goes to your school. (In fact, we think Love in the Time of Cholera would make a riveting high school drama.) He's a skinny, awkward looking teenager who's pining after Fermina, the hottest girl in your class. She's head cheerleader/drama club starlet/sexy Academic Team captain. Florentino writes emo love songs for her on his guitar and passes notes to her day in and day out, but she won't even accept his Facebook friend request. Enter Mr. Hotshot Urbino. He's a senior. He drives a cool car. He plays soccer. He's on the Dean's List. He does community service. He's…utterly detestable.
Of course Fermina picks Juvenal Urbino over Florentino. If Juvenal is Cedric Diggory, Florentino is Harry Potter. If he's Edward Cullen, Florentino is…well, he's that nerdy kid from the Twilight books whose name we can't remember. You know, the guy doomed to anonymity because Bella never goes out with him.
Poor Florentino. All he can do now is hope for Urbino to transfer schools before they all graduate. (OK, OK, so we're comparing graduation to death in this high school analogy of ours. Relax, it's just a metaphor.)
Fine, maybe you'll tweak a few of the details in your screenplay. What we're trying to say is that Love in the Time of Cholera seems infinitely relatable to the high school condition. Even as the characters in the novel age, their thoughts, feelings, and interactions are so familiar to us. Florentino's constantly got love on the brain. Fermina doesn't want to date him because she's worried about what everyone else will think of her. Drama, drama, drama. Yeah…we can relate to that.