I have delayed writing this review for what feels like more than a month now.
There is something about this book that cannot be “reviewed” or “summarised” in just a few hundred words.
My feelings about this are as scattered as the fallen leaves of an autumn tree, but the story had me entranced, and I couldn’t NOT complete it.
You can buy it from Book Depository through my link by clicking here.
So what I’m getting at here is this!
Please find below my botched attempt at reviewing a book that is loved and revered by many, and enigma for a few (including me).
Also, I’m plugging this video by Ted Education on “Why should you read the One Hundred years of Solitude” the animations are stunning and the way the guy narrates the script is pretty dope too:
Thank you Ted Ed for saving this review 😛
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez follows the Buendia family across a span of 100 years located in Columbia.
“It was the last that remained of a past whose annihilation had not taken place because it was still in a process of annihilation, consuming itself from within, ending at every moment but never ending its ending.”
Jose Arcadio Buendia and Ursula Iguaran get married and for the fear of having children with deformations they cross mountains and establish a fictional village of Macondo with a few other families.
“Then he made one last effort to search in his heart for the place where his affection had rotted away, and he could not find it.”
Thus begins a story of four generations of Buendias that progresses as the world and time evolve along them.
In the beginning, the isolated village had no contact with the rest of the world until one day a group of gypsies arrived bringing life and joy to the inhabitants.
“‘Tell him, the colonel said, smiling, that a person doesn’t die when he should but when he can.”
We get acquainted with their three children: Aureliano, Jose Arcadio, and Amaranta. And understand their personalities and traits that are basically a derivative of their ancestors.
“… that was how in the ripeness of autumn she began to believe once more in the youthful superstition that poverty was the servitude of love.”
As the family tree starts increasing, the village goes through many changes as well becoming the centre of attention for tradesmen and civil wars.
“Death really did not matter to him but life did, and therefore the sensation he felt when they gave their decision was not a feeling of fear but of nostalgia.”
Throughout the transformation, we see so many characters each having similar names, and sometimes similar characteristics that it feels like the same person is being reincarnated in the present era.
“Things have a life of their own,” the gypsy proclaimed with a harsh accent. “It’s simply a matter of waking up their souls.”
But one family member remains present; Ursula.
She becomes a witness to changing seasons, her many grandchildren, great grandchildren, great-great grandchildren, their deaths, their mistakes, their sorrows and their joys, like the prophecy of the two non-Buendia members.
“The rain would not have bothered Fernanda, after all, her whole life had been spent as if it were raining.”
The two members are Pilar Terna (a card reader) and Melquiades (a gypsy) who befriends and leaves the first Jose Arcadio with a manuscript that each generation of Jose Arcadio’s try to decipher in confinement.
“… when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.”
A story about everything and everyone concluded on a very sombering note, bringing life full circle to when the journey all began.
This book is from a special genre called Magical Realism that as I have mentioned before, goes over my head.
But! This book was beautiful, scandalous, stuck in one phase, yet all over the place. It reminded me of To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf somehow, and I am not sure if that comparison or reminiscence makes any sense.
Just the concept of time really reminded me of how Woolf represented it in her book. Both stories make you feel you aged a few decades while sitting and reading.
However, I loved the character of Ursula. That woman was a pillar of strength and commitment for all the characters despite many not paying any attention to her troubles or worries. She knew what had to be done and “come rain or sunshine” she made sure the task was done.
Also, the names!!!
Oh my Lord! I have no clue how the author didn’t get the characters messed up! Everyone is named Jose Arcadio Buendia, Ursula, Remedios and some more. Everyone has some combination of the original name and it is confusing to keep track of them all.
But, this is one of the crucial elements of the story. These names and the various combinations actually represent the character or future of the person.
It is like history repeating itself and no matter how much time goes by or development in the village, those characters will go through the same cycle of love, deceit, confusion and solitude like their predecessor.
I had a tough time reading this book and felt like I had surely missed something. But this book reveals itself once you’re done while you’re looking at something mundane or observing your family.
It’ll bewitch you “heart and soul” (Oh. Mr Darcy!), have your attention and confusion, will test your prudence with its scandalous trysts, but the end sums it up perfectly.
I don’t know what else to say…
Onto the basics:
- Rating: 4.0/5.0
- Favorite quote: “It’s enough for me to be sure that you and I exist at this moment”
- Reader level: It is fairly easy.
- Should you read: I wouldn’t be sure.
- Would I read it again: yes (?!)
Till next time,