OF LOVE AND OTHER DEMONS is part fantasy, part reality, with some magical realism included, but it is totally Gabriel Garcia Marquez and it is one of my favorites.
Unlike Garcia Marquez's masterpiece, ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE and the funny and poignant LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA, OFLOVE AND OTHER DEMONS contains no real wit and is wholly dark and gloomy and filled with terror. The recipient of that terror is the book's protagonist, Sierva Maria de Todos los Angeles, an aristocratic young girl in an unnamed Latin American port city.
Sierva Maria is the only child of Don Ygnacio de Alfaro y Duenas and Bernarda Cabrera. Both mother and father are terrible parents. Don Ygnacio spends his time cowering from life in a hammock in his garden, while his wife, who is addicted to cacao and fermented honey, strolls through the house naked, mourning the end of her wild affair with a slave named Judas Iscariote. Both Don Ygnacio and Bernarda are wholly unlikable, though Don Ygnacio does manage to redeem himself somewhat in the end. Because of her parents lack of availability, Sierva Maria spends her time with the black slaves that work on her father's plantation and, as a result, she is much more African in her outlook than she is Spanish.
One could envision Sierva Maria living out her days happily with the slaves, forgotten by both mother and father. The incident that drives the plot of this book, and the one that alters the course of Sierva Maria's life, however, is a bite on the ankle by a dog suspected of having rabies. Even though it's quite clear that the dog was not rabid, Don Ygnacio, on the advice of the local bishop, takes his daughter to a convent and decides that she much be exorcised of the demons that have, of course, come to possess her with the bite of the dog.
Once Don Ygnacio makes the decision to exorcise the demons from his daughter's life, a priest named Cayetano Delaura enters the picture and promptly falls in love with Sierva Maria, primarily because of her lush, coppery hair. Father Delaura greatly opposes Sierva Maria's familiarity with the African slaves, but it is a Jewish doctor, Abrenuncio de Sa Pereira Cao who opposes Father Delaura. Abrenuncio knows Sierva Maria hasn't been infected with rabies, but he has his hands full attempting to convince Don Ygnacio and the abbess of the convent in which Sierva Maria has become a prisoner.
The prose in this dark book is gorgeous, as beautiful as that in ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE even if it does lack the wit. It doesn't really matter because wit isn't needed in this story. The prose is lush, gorgeous, magical, limpid, luminous and poetic. It provides a perfect counterpoint to the harrowing story it tells.
OF LOVE AND OTHER DEMONS many not be Gabriel Garcia Marquez's masterpiece, but it is certainly one of the best books ever written. I would definitely recommend this book to everyone and it is certainly a good place to begin if you're a first time reader of Garcia Marquez.