In the late 1800s, in a Caribbean port city, a young telegraph operator named Florentino Ariza falls deliriously in love with Fermina Daza, a beautiful student. She is so sheltered that they carry on their romance secretly, through letters and telegrams. When Fermina Daza's father finds out about her suitor, he sends her on a trip intended to make her forget the affair. Lorenza Daza has much higher ambitions for his daughter than the humble Florentino. Her grief at being torn away from her lover is profound, but when she returns she breaks off the relationship, calling everything that has happened between them an illusion.
Instead, she marries the elegant, cultured, and successful Dr. Juvenal Urbino. As his wife, she will think of herself as "the happiest woman in the world." Though devastated by her rejection, Florentino Ariza is not one to be deterred. He has declared his eternal love for Fermina, and determines to gain the fame and fortune he needs to win her back. When Fermina's husband at last dies, 51 years, 9 months, and 4 days later, Florentino Ariza approaches Fermina again at her husband's funeral. There have been hundreds of other affairs, but none of these women have captured his heart as Fermina did. "He is ugly and sad," says one of his lovers, "but he is all love."
In this magnificent story of a romance, Garcia Marquez beautifully and unflinchingly explores the nature of love in all its guises, small and large, passionate and serene. Love can emerge like a disease in these characters, but it can also outlast bleak decades of war and cholera, and the effects of time itself.