Friday, 25 February 2011
And the award for most overrated novel of all time goes to...
I don't get it... this is on all those "100 greatest novels of all time" reading lists. It's meant to be one of those novels that everyone needs to read at least once in their lifetime. And judging by the millions of rave reviews online I thought this book would become a staple for me to leaf through on a rainy day like I do with other classic novels (like the old George Eliot, or modern-ish stuff like S.E. Hinton). That isn't going to be the case here. I HATED this book. Not just dislike - I truly hated it.
Firstly, I'll say the title of this novel drew me in. There I was thinking it'd be some epic love story about love enduring through the ages and triumphing in the face of adversity. I thought there would be an intriguing hero and heroine and humourous light banter between the two. I thought I would laugh or cry or just generally feel for the characters. But this was no Nicholas Sparks novel. For the most part I was indifferent to what the characters did and when I did feel anything it was, as i already stated, hatred.
The main character, Florentino Ariza, falls in love with Fermina Daza (whilst he is 17 she is 13) and decides that she is the only one for him. This love is sparked just by her appearance I think, since he doesn't actually say a single word to her and just basically stalks her for a while. They start writing supposedly amazing letters to each other filled with wonderful professions of love on Ariza's part, but the readers never get to read a single letter to judge themselves. Perhaps Marquez can't actually write any of the lyrical compositions that he describes so well.
Anyway, all this sounds well and good so far, right? Well it all becomes a big mess when she rejects him one day (it isn't really explained why, I assumed she took one look at this guy close up and realised he was far too ugly for her taste, but I can't be 100% sure that that's the case). Florentino Ariza pines after her for the next 50+ odd years or so. In that time he stalks her (ewww), buys a mirror because he knows she used it and imagines her looking into it (double ewww) and becomes obsessed with her (errrm - is it just me or does this guy sound like a weirdo?) If that wasn't enough he claims that he saves his "soul" or just general self for Fermina Daza but in those years goes around having fleeting physical relationships with any woman he wants. He sounds increasingly disgusting till the very end when it is even implied that he may be a paedo! And this... is what is on Oprah Winfrey's book club read? She endorses novels like this!? THIS is considered great literature?
In short, it's an awful novel. The only positive it has to recommend itself is the rich description. Other than that it's the most disappointing novel I have ever read. The title hypes it up to be far nicer than it really is (you can't claim this is a love story, not really). Marques does write well - it's eloquent and suchlike. But when the content isn't about Florentina Ariza's gross misconduct or the dull marriage of Fermina and the doctor bloke it is all just a lengthy snoozefest!
If you're having some trouble falling asleep, give this book a read. It's guaranteed to send you off to the land of nod, especially during the first 3/4s. If you want to read about unlikeable characters who you never feel you actually understand, again, this is for you. Alternatively if my long rant about how this is a horrid read and a waste of time has put you off then GOOD. I'm glad you won't waste all those minutes of your life reading something you will ultimately end up loathing.