The author is the one who is setting the story - the three main characters of Dr. Juvenal Urbino, his wife Fermina Daza and her very longtime admirer Florentino Ariza. The story set over 50 years may be the reason for its slow pace. You never feel that you can hurry it along and find out what is going to happen. From the first page you know this is going to be the long haul. You will get there eventually but you have to have patience. Old fashioned backgrounds may also account for the slower pace of the book.
Fermina as a very young girl had no idea of romantic love and Florentino came into her life at an opportune time when she was bored with her life. The idea of love between them was borne but it was a hopeless one as her father would never approve of this relationship. Dr Urbino called to her bedside at a time of illness, fell in love with her and she remained a faithful wife to him till his untimely death. The creepy part was that Florentino never fell out of love with his ideal love and just waited patiently for Dr Urbino to die to claim his bride. This is exactly what he did. He had a very long wait though and the story is told from the time he met Fermina till the doctor's death and his subsequent wooing of Fermina.
Spanning decades in Colombo Fermina is a haughty, arrogant woman who forgot her past, Florentino would today be called a stalker and Dr Urbino lived in his own world where he felt he was the best in everything he did.
Extremely descriptive but very slow this is not a book for those who want a quick read, and for events to happen quickly. Interesting but painfully slow.