On the eve of his ninetieth birthday a bachelor decides to give himself a wild night of love with a virgin. As is his habit–he has purchased hundreds of women–he asks a madam for her assistance. The fourteen-year-old girl who is procured for him is enchanting, but exhausted as she is from caring for siblings and her job sewing buttons, she can do little but sleep. Yet with this sleeping beauty at his side, it is he who awakens to a romance he has never known.
Let me begin by saying that Gabriel Garcia Marquez is among my most favourite authors, mainly, because he employs, like other South American or Spanish authors, magical realism in his novels – and this one is no exception – there are ghosts, spirits, hallucinations, and visions!
While the length of the book may suggest (115 pages only) that the quality of the story may be below par, that is not the case. While we learn about the bachelor (who is never named) celebrating his ninetieth birthday with a fourteen year old virgin, and his story of how he has come to be in the situation he is in, we learn also about what it means to fall in love, how we allow ourselves to perhaps waste our youth, expecting it to somehow last, and what it means to grow old.
Ultimately, I very much enjoyed this novel. It’s funny, touching, sad, hopeful, and redemptive. I also find that I enjoy Marquez’s short stories (i.e. The Man with Enormous Wings) and novellas (i.e. Chronicle of a Death Foretold) far more intriguing and richer than his longer novels. Don’t get me wrong, I love all his work, but the fact that the shorter works have stayed with me in detail is telling of Marquez’s gift as a writer and story-teller.