Book Review: One-Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Preview…Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” has a lot going on. To truly love and appreciate this novel, it is important that you have an understanding of the literary mode of magical realism. Nobel Laureate Garcia Marquez is often cited as the most iconic writer (and this particular novel as one of the strongest examples) of this style, which is best represented among Latin American writers. Magical realism juxtaposes logical real-life situations with fantastical elements.
Apart from the gripping style of prose, the novel’s plot also has much to offer. We follow the Buendia family over more than 100 years as they found the town of Mocando, lead it through revolution and political uprising, witness the industrial revolution, marry (sometimes to each other), give birth, die, compulsively feed on dirt, ascend into heaven pure and without sins and uncover mysterious prophecies that were once made by a Gypsy magic man. There’s never a dull moment with the Buendias!
“One Hundred Years of Solitude” provides a great case study in the cyclical nature of history. Members of the Buendia family are destined to repeat each other’s triumphs and mistakes. An unavoidable act of incestuous breeding begins the novel and also ends it (along with the family line). The repetition of names in the family line also drives home the point that we are all the same; we are all united in our paths. I did a quick count and found that this novel introduces twenty-two characters with the name Aureliano, five Jose Aracadios, and two each of Remedios, Ursula and Armanatra (pffew!).
Make sure to have a copy of the Buendia family tree handy as you read through this novel.
As a reader, I most identified with the Buendia matriarch, Ursula Iguarin, the family’s binding agent. She personifies the lesson that one can be surrounded by people but still feel utterly alone.
You may like this book if…you have enjoyed other works of magical realism like “Love in the Time of Cholera”, “Everything is Illuminated” or “The Famished Road”, you appreciate dramatic action-packed storylines, you enjoy stories that stretch the limits of reality, you are intrigued by mysterious prophecies and the promise of hidden treasure, you enjoy beautifully written—almost lyrical—prose, you can really identify with the themes of solitude, cyclical history and the unavoidability of fate
You may not like this book if…magical realism is too whack-a-doo for you, you don’t even want to begin to try to keep up with the large and overlapping cast of characters, you don’t think you will be able to get over the repeated acts of incest among the characters, you’re more of a film buff than a book geek (there’s a reason this story was never made into a movie)