I was searching through one of those Pinterest articles on “Books You Can Read in One Sitting” and found this. I'd read several books with at least 500 pages prior and needed something short to break it all up, so I gave Memories of My Melancholy Whores a try.
Spoilers are below!
On the eve of his ninetieth birthday, an elderly journalist decided to give himself a present in the form of a night with a prostitute. This wasn't unusual in itself as he had paid for nights with hundreds of women, only this time he requested the local madam fix him up with a young virgin. Exhausted from her job in a factory and so nervous that the madam drugged her, the fourteen-year-old girl slept through the entire night. While watching her sleep, the old man realized what he'd been missing his whole life and unexpectedly fell head over heels in love.
I read this book’s summary and thought, “Well, it’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez, he’s great and I should appreciate this book for the writing style at least. Maybe the two fall in love at the end?” Well...no. I did enjoy the writing style - and I’m sure it’s even better before being translated to English - but the story was just so icky I couldn’t really focus on anything else.
Don’t get me wrong, I did pity the old man. I felt nothing but pity for him as he got ready to go to his meeting with the girl, trying his best to look nice even while thinking about how much he'd changed. He knew he'd had a loveless life and at the very end of it, he realized that it wasn’t all about the sex and his life was void of meaningful relationships. But that didn’t change the fact that he didn’t expect to have that breakthrough. He fully intended to have sex with this girl and just go on about his day. Not okay. Just disgusting. I noticed many reviews on Goodreads saying people who didn’t like this book were just “close-minded” and “didn’t get it.” No. I understood what it was trying to say about the old man’s life. I get that he was giddily in love for the first time ever. I just didn’t like what he was planning to do with a fourteen-year-old girl. Why couldn’t he fall in love with the idea of an eighty or seventy-year-old woman? Or even sixty? I would’ve found that story sweet.
Slightly off subject, I know some people would argue that women can be empowered by working in the sex industry and that's just something I have a hard time buying. By all means, own your sexuality. As it stands today - in real life and not theory - millions of women and men are trapped in sex trade in a horrible cycle of abuse. The girl in the story was fourteen, exhausted from factory work, and so nervous she was drugged. That does not scream empowerment, it screams abuse and misogyny - no matter what sort of revelation the old man had.
I guess this does show how great Marquez’ writing is if it elicits such strong opinions!
I’m giving this 1 out of 5; the writing was quite wonderful but I couldn't get past the weird feeling the book gave me. Overall, it just wasn’t for me.
I have One Hundred Years of Solitude by Marquez on my To Be Read list and I’m looking forward to that one, but unless you’re trying to read all of Marquez’ works - or you’re Hugh Hefner - I wouldn’t recommend Memories of My Melancholy Whores.