I’m almost certain that most people have heard of this book or at least about the author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It seems pointless to write yet another review out of thousands already available on the web, or outline facts about Marquez that could be easily looked up on Wikipedia (however I do recommend his page, it’s a captivating read).
Instead, I’d like to share the feeling I had when reading the book, and my opinion regarding Marquez’s literary style.
First of all, I chose One Hundred Years of Solitude as the opening post to my book section, because I was never more touched by a novel as I was after I finished Marquez’s masterpiece. It is simple, yet extremely complex, it is magical yet also bluntly realistic. I cannot say with certainty how the story is, and I would probably not remember the plot in detail even after I had just read it, but it was the reading experience itself that stuck in my mind. At one point, I was lost somewhere between fantasy and reality, and I’d like to read the novel again one day, just to see if I’ll understand it the same way I did three years ago when I first read it.
Since then, I’ve recommended this book to almost everyone looking for a good read. The most interesting fact about it that I wouldn’t have discovered on my own, and I had to read somewhere else, was that the story is in fact rich in symbols and metaphors that reference Columbian history. These I couldn’t have noticed when going through the pages, because I didn’t know the history of Latin America to such a degree.
In my opinion, this book is for more experienced readers, who do not find the plot particularly important. If you would read a book just to discover peculiar, weak or on the contrary, strong characters, then this is the right book for you. It isn’t an easy read, the plot is complex and I needed to go back a few pages one too many times, in order to scan passages again and remember who was who, just to discover afterwards that the author always made sure to refer to a particular trait a couple of sentences later, that helps the reader follow the narrative. I have to admit, however, that I was seriously considering to draw a family tree after the third chapter of the book.
The book is about a family and its history over the course of a hundred years, (or maybe more, even the narrator doesn’t know for certain). The family plays a vital role in the fate of the magical village of Macondo, but over time their strength and their influence declines, and it seems at a point that it doesn’t really matter to anyone what has happened with the Buendias.
My hope as a reader, from the first page to the last, was to see this family progress, become stronger, and maybe choose the right path with the next turn of the page, so they’d continue the line and prosper.
The characters are intricately complex and represent different prototypes of people. My favorite, and the one I still remember, is of course Ursula, the woman founder of the family, who succeeds in keeping them alive and well for over a century. The family is big, spanning multiple generations of successors, each of them a unique character of their own, in which you can also distinguish a surprising blend of his ancestors’ traits.
Even though they get the same names over and over (and it becomes difficult to keep up with which Aureliano the narrator refers to, for example), and even though they inherit the same characteristics, they still manage to bring something new to the tale.
The story itself is cyclical and it switches between reality and fantasy in such a natural way that the reader doesn’t realize anymore which is which, and doesn’t feel surprised by the unbelievable events anymore. It was particularly that blend of reality and fantasy that I enjoyed most, and the feeling that something striking was about to happen with every page I turned.
The characters, the circular stories, the cross-references between protagonists, and the original writing style make this book a must read.
One Hundred Years of Solitude (Marquez 2014)