The story takes place between about 1880 and 1930, in a Caribbean seaport city, unnamed but said to be a composite of Cartagena and Barranquillaof Colombia, and perhaps, as cities of the spirit less officially mapped.
Three major characters form a triangle whose hypotenuse is Florentino Ariza, a poet dedicated to love both carnal and transcendent, though his secular fate is with the River Company of the Caribbean and its small fleet of paddle-wheel steamboats.
Florentino Ariza, a young apprentice telegrapher falls madly in love with Fermina Daza, a ‘’beautiful adolescent with . . . almond-shaped eyes,’’ who walks with a ‘’natural haughtiness when they are teenagers and become childhood sweethearts.
Their love is forbidden and Fermina’s father does everything he can to keep them apart, eventually succeeding. Although they never shared a proper conversation, they steal surreptious glances and fan the flames of young love with a secret correspondence of love letters.
When Fermina decides that what exists between she and Florentino is not love, but some kind of adolescent illusion, she rejects him and leaves him tormented and brokenhearted.
Fermina marries a wealthy doctor - Dr. Juvenal Urbino after her father has taken her away on an extended ‘’journey of forgetting.’’ But when she returns, Fermina rejects the lovesick young man after all, and eventually meets and marries instead Dr. Juvenal Urbino who, like the hero of a 19th-century novel, is well born, a sharp dresser, somewhat stuck on himself but a terrific catch nonetheless.
Florentino is determined that one day he and Fermina will be together again. She spends his entire life carrying a torch for Fermina. While he stays devout in his singular love and devotion for Fermina Daza, he finds comfort in a multitude of secret love affairs of the flesh.
After fifty-one years, nine months and four days, upon the death of Fermina’s husband, Florentino steps out of the shadows to once again profess his everlasting fidelity.
In the post romantic ebb of the 70’s and 80’s, with everybody now so wised up and even growing paranoid about love, once the magical buzzword of a generation, it is a daring step for any writer to decide to work in love’s vernacular, to take it, with all its folly, imprecision and lapses in taste, at all seriously -that is, as well worth those higher forms of play that we value in fiction.
According to Online Encyclopedia, Wikipedia, García Márquez’s main notion is that lovesickness is a literal illness, a disease comparable to cholera.
Florentino suffers from this just as he might suffer from any malady. At one point, he conflates his physical agony with his amorous agony when he vomits after eating flowers in order to imbibe Fermina’s scent.
Marquez is a master of magical realism and once again in a delivers in complex story, perhaps too complex for some readers to follow the plot well, but he continues to enthrall and this one is no difference, portraying about the flowering of love in the older years.