Reading Review-100 Years Of Solitude

Posted: April 14, 2011 in Book Review
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What strange and unique tales Gabriel Garcia Marquez has woven together in “One Hundred Years Of Solitude”.  It tells the story of the Buendia family and chronicles their lives (and deaths) in the mythical town of Macondo.

I must admit that apprehension took over before I decided to dive into this book, only because I am aware of its “classic” status in literature –- there is a greater sense of pressure to like it, you see.  Regardless of my hesitation, I unleashed the pages, welcomed them with open arms and found myself –early on– enjoying the story.  Ah yes, it was going to live up to expectations! I was convinced that a well-deserved 5 star rating –-and nothing less– was going to be my final verdict.

Fast forward 175 pages or so from what was a marvelous beginning –-disappointment started to rear its ugly head on this Nobel Prize recipient. Before you decide to crucify the reviewer however, read on and let me explain.  After all, I’ve still given it a favorable review.

As I already mentioned, the beginning of the story was absolutely engaging. Gypsies, oddities, magic, a mystical town and ghosts of times past, set the stage for what I was hoping would be a memorable read.  Marquez’s words are so exquisite, vivid and beaming with imaginative descriptions that I was left in awe.  The writing really is a thing of beauty; it must have been a task for Gregory Rabassa, who is responsible for the Spanish to English translation. 

It is no secret that Marquez thrived on the “magic realism” technique and executes it flawlessly in this book.  In fact, many credit him for introducing a wide audience to this form of writing, although he was not the first to use it.

My criticisms however –and I have a few– are not with the words on the page, but rather with the style he chooses to convey them.  I do apologize in advance to the literary elites, who love this book, for what I am about to say, but the style is simply preposterous.  The story consists of very little dialogue between characters, which bothered me slightly, considering he introduces us to many different generations of the Buendia family and a bunch of other players with important roles to fulfill.  Some of those never-ending, dialogue-less paragraphs stretched more than a couple of pages long (unheard of) –and whatever happened to avoiding run-on sentences?  Try –reading aloud– the sentence that begins on page 323 and ends of page 325! What a chore, huh?  Here I thought I was reading a book, but I also found myself exercising breath control skills when vocalizing those sentences; I might as well be doing Yoga.

The lack of engaging the characters in conversation made me feel disconnected and indifferent towards them –-with the exception of Ursula, who was the rock of the family, even on her last days when she was surrounded by the blackness.  The truth is that Marquez has created tormented individuals that are not very likeable at all.  Having some of them venture into the taboo territory of incest and pedophilia may also contribute in disturbing and turning readers away.  In addition, some may find the story a little difficult to keep up with due to many of the characters having the same name or a derivative of it.  I imagine the family tree at the beginning of this book (tactfully placed there) will be visited often by unsuspecting readers; reverting a couple of pages for a friendly reminder might be the norm when trying to distinguish one Buendia from the next.

Although there is no real plot, the imaginative stories within the book keep the reader interested as we move along, but it gets fairly repetitive (about as fun as listening to a broken record) and redundant in feel.  You will find parts that are engrossing and exciting to read while others are so dull that they can cure insomnia; very somber in mood, but you can expect to be somewhat depressed with a title like “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, right?

I am accustomed to reading books in no more than a few sittings.  I fly by them with the speed of a jet, but this particular book was laborious to get through.  I found myself putting it down far too many times simply because the aforementioned style kept on feeding me long paragraphs that needed to be read carefully and absorbed thoroughly; thus making it a not so enjoyable read at times (and no, I don’t have a short attention span). 

I am in tune with the fact that the majority of my complaints are just a matter of taste; the repetition of names, lack of dialogue, extended paragraphs and “stream of consciousness” technique are all deliberately crafted that way by Marquez as an “effective” method of telling his story and symbolic meanings, but not everyone will enjoy it.  The saving grace for this book and what helped me through it was the beautiful words Marquez uses to bring it to life. If you aspire to be a great writer or if you simply want to be enchanted by an artistic view of writing, visiting his work is a must.

Yes, I realize it is a personal classic to many (almost everyone), and the accolades for it are abundant, but not for me – I am perfectly content with being in the minority and calling it merely, a “good” book.

3 out of 5

  1. momfog says:

    I agree but would probably give it 4 of 5 simply because he is the master of magical realism. It’s just not my style.

    A more palatable example would be “See Under: Love” by David Grossman. I adore that book! I took a class in Magical Realism and this is the book I remember. Of course, it would be helpful to read “Street of Crocodiles” by Bruno Shulz first since “See Under: Love” is about Bruno Shulz. Or maybe a bio of Bruno Shulz.

    Good review.

  2. Maybe I was a bit harsh on the overall rating; the writing is without a doubt, exquisite. I will have to look into your recommendations!

    Thanks for reading.

  3. midaevalmaiden says:

    Ive not heard of this book. But I did enjoy your review. Paticulary the part about the run on sentences.

  4. rachelgrima says:

    I’ve been meaning to read this book since it’s exemplary of magic realism, and the closest I got to the technique is through Salman Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children’.

    Thank you for the review, it has been enlightening!

  5. Glad you guys enjoyed the review!

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