This is one of my all-time favorites, even though I've only read it in translation. Gabriel García Márquez, the author, reportedly said that he wanted to chronicle all the different kinds of love.

The book is basically a romantic epic. It spans about 60 years--the exact time of the novel is never made clear, but it's roughly between 1860 and 1920. It begins with an old married couple, Fermina Daza and Dr. Juvenal Urbino, who travel to the doctor's eighieth birthday party. The party is really more of an excuse to give us a feeling for the doctor and his wife and the life they've built together. The rest of the novel is told in flashback, and chronicles the love of the couple and of the other people who they have close to near over the years.

Love in the Time of Cholera moves at a leisurely pace and takes many detours to tell us about its characters and their relationships--which are as funny, heartbreaking, and varied as our own. But by starting the book near the end of its characters' lives, Marquez maintains a consistent story. Since we begin by seeing where the characters end up, we are continually able to see the rather rambling narrative as a coherent story. And despite the emphasis on character, there are a number of inspired plot twists and a buildup to a suspenseful climax.

SPOILER ALERT: If you read this book, do not read the blurb on the back. A couple of the most dramatic plot twists appear in the first 100 pages, and so the American publishers described them on the book's cover. Those spoilers don't ruin the book, but they do take away from the impact of the early sections.

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