A romance novel by Colombian Nobel prize winning author. The story is set in a coastal town in Colombia in the late 19th century. The novel starts with elderly doctor Juvenal Urbino and his wife Fermina Daza attending a funeral; Urbino falls off a ladder while reaching for his parrot and dies; immediately after his death, the widow Fermina gets a visit from Floriento Ariza, a former lover whom she rejected fifty years ago. We return back in time fifty years to the past, when the characters are still in their youth, and begin the story of their romance.
Floriento first spots Fermina in a park and quickly falls in love with her. They write lots of letters to each other, but never really get to know each other in-person. Despite her father’s objections to the relationship, they continue to write letters for a while, until one day she turns from a trip and decides she no longer likes Floriento anymore. She then meets doctor Urbino and gets married to him. Floriento swears he will always love Fermina — he never marries (although he has numerous secret affairs), and waits for Urbino’s death to start courting Fermina again. He succeeds in getting Fermina in the end, but it is a bittersweet victory as they have entered old age: their bodies are failing and they don’t have much longer to live.
The author Garcia Marquez writes in a dense prose, requiring a lot of concentration to read. The writing shifts abruptly across time periods and to different characters, although most of it is from Floriento’s perspective. The reader faces a difficult decision of whether to sympathize with Floriento or not: on one hand, his love for Fermina is pure and total, but at the same time, it is foolish to sustain unreciprocated love for so long. Floriento is naturally a romantic dreamer, so perhaps he is not in control of this choice — whenever he is nervous thinking about Fermina, he gets sick with symptoms similar to cholera. Meanwhile, Urbino has a more practical approach to love: his love for Fermina is only moderate but nevertheless they are able to build a successful marriage together.