REVIEW: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Genre: Fiction, Pages: 448, Level: Very Difficult

Book Description from Barnes & Noble:

One of the 20th century’s enduring works, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a widely beloved and acclaimed novel known throughout the world, and the ultimate achievement in a Nobel Prize–winning career.

The novel tells the story of the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendía family. It is a rich and brilliant chronicle of life and death, and the tragicomedy of humankind. In the noble, ridiculous, beautiful, and tawdry story of the Buendía family, one sees all of humanity, just as in the history, myths, growth, and decay of Macondo, one sees all of Latin America.

Love and lust, war and revolution, riches and poverty, youth and senility- the variety of life, the endlessness of death, the search for peace and truth- these universal themes dominate the novel. Whether he is describing an affair of passion or the voracity of capitalism and the corruption of government, Gabriel García Márquez always writes with the simplicity, ease, and purity that are the mark of a master.

Alternately reverential and comical, One Hundred Years of Solitude weaves the political, personal, and spiritual to bring a new consciousness to storytelling. Translated into dozens of languages, this stunning work is no less than an accounting of the history of the human race.

Author won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

That first sentence was all it took for me to be hooked.

Storyline

This is such a phenomenal story that I purchased the book so I can take notes in it. It has so much drama in it and did elicit emotional responses from me. I actually cried during several parts of the book.

I am not going to kid you; this book is a difficult book to read. The book reads like a stream of consciousness with little dialogue and is sometimes difficult to follow. The paragraphs are very long, sometimes pages long. A paragraph may begin on one topic, go through 6 or 7 more and end somewhere completely different than it began. I would have to go back to re-read the paragraph just make sure I read it correctly.

You can’t day dream during one single line. If you do, you are taking the chance that you missed something and will have to go back to figure it out. If you have gone through a few sentences, realized that you were day dreaming and didn’t really register what you read, go back. It’s worth it.

However, if I got to a point where I knew I had missed something that happened a long time ago, and would have to back really far in to the beginning of the book, I just let it go. This is a book that you may have to read again and again to fully appreciate it. That’s not to say you won’t appreciate it after the first reading. It just means that the level of your appreciation and love of the book will likely increase with each subsequent reading.

Magical Realism

According to Wikipedia, “[m]agic realism or magical realism is an aesthetic style or genre of fiction in which magical elements blend with the real world. The story explains these magical elements as real occurrences, presented in a straightforward manner that places the ‘real’ and the ‘fantastic’ in the same stream of thought. It is a film, literary and visual art genre.”

Another good book is Beowulf on the Beach by Jack Murnighan, which discusses literature’s 50 greatest novels. He writes, “Forget about magic realism. Right now. If I hear you say the words, I’ll sneak up behind you with a piano-wire garrote; I’m not kidding. Yes, Gabriel García Márquez is associated with that dimwit’s category (lumping him with the epigone Isabel Allende and other charlatans), but his imaginative leaps are the least important thing about this book. To reduce García Márquez’s narrative genius to such an infantilizing pseudo concept as magic realism is high treason in itself, but to allow that academic manure to be what people talk about regarding this novel, as if humanity doesn’t need to be sat down, as a whole, at grandpa Gabo’s knee and told what’s really important, that is utterly inexcusable. Literature classes have a sacred book on their hands and they make it sound like the trip journals of a peyote fiend. For shame.”

Throughout the book, there are scenes that are complete fairy tales and are told like they actually happened. From a flying carpet to a levitating priest, the book is full of such stories. It doesn’t come across as ridiculous, and I am definitely one who would have to make a great effort not to roll my eyes when such stories are told. However you refer to this aspect of the book, somehow, these made up portions make the book more personable, imaginable and yes, real. You can almost see the awe in the villagers’ face as they see the flying carpet go by.

Names

There are five generations of Jose Arcadios and 4 generations of Aurelianos. And actually, there is mention of even older ones but they are just in passing usually. Not to mention, there are 17 other Aurelianos that really don’t play any significant part in the story. And sometimes, they are illegitimate but accepted into the family as full blood family members. Bottom line, this makes the storyline even more confusing to follow sometimes.

There are times when you think, “Oh my gosh he’s making out with his sister.” But then you have to go back to the family tree at the beginning of the book or try to remember how they are related before you make your final decision as to whether that is gross or not. Don’t worry, sometimes it will be.

Sex

There is a lot of sex in the book and it is sometimes morally ambiguous. If frequent sex bothers you, don’t read the book. If weird sex bothers you, don’t read the book. If messy sex bothers you, don’t read the book. I could go on and on but why ruin the surprise? I am far from a prude and there were scenes in this book that made me cringe. If you are squeamish about sex, don’t read the book.

Conclusion

I would say this is a must read, but it depends on your personality, what types of books you enjoy, how long it takes you to read a book, etc. If your idea of reading is People Magazine, this is probably not the book for you. If a two hundred page book takes you a month to read, you’ll probably never finish this book.

I can read a 500 page book in one day. This book is less than 500 pages and it will probably take me several weeks to get through the whole thing. And then I will start all over again with my own copy that I can make notes in. I have to read it again because I think I missed a lot. Making notes in the book will help me keep it all straight and will help me on the third run. A friend of mine commented that is too much work.

Reading is about enjoyment. If you don’t enjoy books like this, there is nothing wrong with that. I don’t look for books “at my level.” That is not why I read. I read because I enjoy getting lost in a book and a story. I am going through a Young Adult phase right now as far as books are concerned. I love The Hunger Games trilogy and The Matched trilogy. I go through Science Fiction phases. I go through Stephen King phases. With One Hundred Years of Solitude, I read another Young Adult series at the same time. When my brain just got completely overwhelmed, I would put this book down, and pick up a lighter read to give my brain a break. I had a hard time sleeping if I read this book right before I went to bed because I kept imagining scenes. Although that is a wonderful aspect of the book, it doesn’t help my sleeping much.

Reviewed by Christina

One thought on “REVIEW: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

  1. Pingback: 2013 New Year’s Resolution | Book Expectations

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