A Book Review: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I actually read One Hundred Years of Solitude a year ago when I was in Riviera Mexico for my sister’s destination wedding. I read it under the piercing sun, surrounded by sand and it felt like a really appropriate setting, given the fictional setting of the book is seemingly quite tropical.
Note: I am currently reading the new J.K. Rowling novel, published under pen-name Robert Galbraith, but that review will have to wait until next time. In the meantime, I perused my bookshelf to see what I could possibly write about and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez stood out.
One Hundred Years of Solitude focuses on the creation and development of one particular family. It’s quite a peculiar family, with vastly different characters, some bizarre, some brutish, but ultimately all feel human and real. The characters, although technically very different from myself, were not un-relatable. There was no “bad” guy or evil in this novel. There was a balance of good, bad, and magic.
The Good: This novel is considered to be the epitome of magical realism. This is not fantasy by any means. I think magic is normally associated with wizards or witches, a la Harry Potter. Magical realism is nothing like that. There is no control over this magic. In fact, it is not even viewed as magic at all. More like these weird things that occasionally happen. An example: in what is probably one of the coolest moments in the novel, a young girl is suddenly lifted in to the sky and keeps going up until she vanishes from sight. Then she is just gone. Her family pauses, reflects for a second, then they move on with life.
Magical realism is a really strange technique to me; I feel most are terrible at it. The magical elements are just sort of accepted without any questioning, and I usually have a hard time accepting this. However, I loved the magical realism in this novel. The moments were many of the most beautifully written passages I have ever read. On top of that, these aren’t just spur of the moment, although they may appear that way upon first glance. These moments are highly symbolic, and it takes some deep analytical thinking to figure out – if we even can – just what Marquez is trying to say through this character and through this magical realism moment. I never felt like I needed a direct explanation as to why any of it happened simply because the writing was so well done and Marquez had given me everything I needed to figure it out for myself. And it is better that way anyway.
The book is filled with these happenings. It sort of creates the weirdly enchanted and drowsy wonderment during the whole novel which then in turn makes you more accepting of these strange happenings. The ending is spelled out in the very beginning of the story, but the journey of how the family gets there is so entirely compelling and well-written.
The Bad: It is hard to keep everyone in the family straight. There are loads of illegitimate children, and the family has a problem with recycling names like nobody’s business. There are distinctions made, but I would often stumble and be confused as to who I was reading about, and I would often have to go back a few paragraphs to really understand just what was going on.
The Verdict: I don’t see anyone hating this novel, although magical realism definitely won’t be for everyone. I think the story is still real enough to relate to and the dash of magical symbolism makes it beautiful and creative in a way that most novels are not. I highly recommend this novel.
Written by Rachel B.
Rachel is a co-creator and writer at Definitely Not for the Birds (DNFB). She recently graduated with a degree in English. Presently, she writes, reads, and then reads and writes some more, with a giant and ever-present mug of green tea in her hand. Follow Rachel @rrbindl and DNFB @not4birds