Literature Book Review
Title: One Hundred Years of Solitude
Author: Gabriel García Márquez
Publisher: HarperPerennial Classics
I have meant to read One Hundred Years of Solitude for what feels like 100 years, and I have spent what feels like 100 years in solitude. It took me over two months to read it. To be fair, I read many other things at the same time, and this epic tragedy following the Buendía family’s insane lives requires that you pay close attention. The imaginary town of Macondo, Colombia, where the story is set, is painted with rich colours, perceptible smells, and palpable textures, all of which achieve a sensory effect. Its inhabitants are as quirky as a baby with a pig’s tail. However, I found that, although I enjoyed the story very much, I prefer a story with dialogue, and I found the exceedingly long sentences and paragraphs challenging. Despite my bookmark, I found myself having to re-read large portions I had read the night before because I couldn’t figure out where I’d left off.
I love magical realism (Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia was incredible!), and I love that the genre was essentially invented by the author of this book. This is truly an epic tale, “blending the everyday and the miraculous,” full of wit and wisdom, love and cruelty, but it also possesses its fair share of tedium, as human life does. But I prefer stories that take me far from the monotony of everyday life. Even with the genealogical chart at the front of the book, I found it difficult to keep track of one Aureliano from another and one José Arcadio from another. I could never remember what each one looked like, and I couldn’t help hearing the narrator’s voice from Jane the Virgin (Anthony Mendez) in my head as I read the book.
What I do remember is that each male member of the Buendía family was written as if they were buffoons. The women of this book are its heart and soul, although they are often difficult to like. In fact, I’ve never read a book in which so many characters were unlikeable. I guess I liked Pilar Ternera the best. I’m sure García Márquez wrote them this way to show us how ridiculous we humans are.
I liked the last two chapters the most as they wrapped up the entire saga beautifully, and it was delightful to witness the short-lived happiness of Amaranta Úrsula and Aureliano (of the parchments) because so few of the characters ever experienced joy.
When I read the “Afterword” at the end of the book (and I have no idea who wrote it because I looked everywhere and I cannot see the author’s name), it helped considerably to know that García Márquez was inspired by his childhood visits with his grandparents at their home in Aracataca, Colombia. García Márquez explained that the tone he used in One Hundred Years of Solitude was based on how his grandmother spoke as she told him supernatural and fantastical stories—with a “brick face.” This is a beneficial thing to know before you read the book. That and children do indeed inherit their parents’ madness.
I look forward to watching the television miniseries that is currently in development and expected to come to Netflix next year. I’m sure it will help me better grasp the remarkable and, hopefully, more delightful big picture.