Posted by: Matt | August 24, 2007

One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of SolitudeOne Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
1970

Reason for reading: I have wanted to read this book for several years. I had heard nothing but good things about it and know that some have called it one of the best books ever written. I also read it for the Book Awards Reading Challenge.

*******

This is the story of the Buendia family and the fictional city of Macondo which was settled by Jose Arcadio Buendia. The novel relates the stories of those who grow up in the first one hundred years of the city. I will not provide much more detail on the plot than that as there is too much to relate.

I was quite disappointed with this book. My expectations were great having wanted to read it for so long and having heard such wonderful things about it. As I wrote earlier, I do not understand why this book is considered to be such a masterpiece. Yet I am not surprised at the critical acclaim it has received. For a novel in which so much happens, nothing really occurs. I suppose I could discuss what it all means, break it down, but I don’t feel strongly enough to do so. That is an indication of how the book failed for me.

This book falls under the category of magical realism, of which I had never heard of until recently. I find that I have read a few books in this category which I enjoyed but this one misses the mark for me. In this book, it feels like magical realism is an excuse to introduce completely random ideas into the narrative. Normally I don’t have a problem with randomness, it can be quite entertaining, but in this book it often felt silly. After reading some passages I wondered to myself if the author had really thought out what he was writing.

I may sound overly harsh, but this probably comes from the high expectations I had. However, one is bound to have high expectations when the book has won the Nobel Prize and been celebrated so much. I must say the book was entertaining at times and I did find myself emotionally involved with the characters at times, although only with those characters at the extremes of behavior.  It was at times interesting seeing them grow up, and a bit confusing. I also found the translation to be top notch, probably the best I’ve ever read. So there certainly are some strengths here, but my overall impression is one of disappointment.

Rating: 3.0

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Responses

  1. A wandering confusion of a book, this is. It was the bane of high school lit class! I like the new look of your blog (I can never read white text on black well).

  2. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it. 😦 I loved it, but I liked Love in The Time of Cholera even more. One of my college roomies was a creative writing major, and one of her professors said that this book had the best first sentence:
    “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

    I wouldn’t call it the best, but it’s pretty good!

  3. Jeane – It does seem to wander, and I was sometimes confused by all of the characters having the same name.

    Eva – I know a lot of people love this book, I was surprised that I didn’t, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. I have to admit that is a pretty good first sentence.

  4. I added a link to your review to my Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon (www.semicolonblog.com). You’re invited to come by any Saturday and add your own link to book reviews posted that particular week.

  5. I’m a huge GGM fan but this one is not one of my favorites. Actually of the 6 books of his I’ve read this is my least favorite. Now, Love in the Time of Cholera is one of my all time favorite books.

  6. Sherry – Thanks. I’ve posted some links on your site before but I usually forget to do it and then come Monday I remember and tell myself I need to do it the next Saturday.

    iliana – I’ve read a lot of good things about Love in the Time of Cholera as well. But I’m not ready for another of his books, not yet anyway.

  7. On many levels I have to agree with you. And having to print out a family tree off of wikipedia for constant reference didn’t help me out either. 🙂 And I guess you are right–what DOES really happen in this book?!

    If you do like Magical Realism, try “The House of the Spirits” by Allende, which is in many ways similar to this book. But also “Midnight’s Children” by Rushdie about the birth of India. Fantastic book!

  8. Trish – I have read Midnight’s Children and really liked it. I didn’t even know it was “magical realism” until recently. I plan on reading more of Rushdie’s books, I’ve read two to this point. I’ll have to check out the Allende book as well.

  9. I haven’t read One Hundred Years, though it is on my shelf. I have read Love in the Time of Cholera and I absolutely hated it. So much so that I never finished it and uncharacteristically didn’t feel bad about it either.

    I do intend to read One Hundred Years simply because it’s said to be the author’s masterpiece. I feel I should at least try that one before I write him off as over-rated.

    Like the new look by the way. 🙂

  10. I have “Love in the Time of Cholera” on my TBR list, but I think I will steer clear of “One Hudnred Years.” Your review points out flaws that I dislike in books. Thanks for the heads up.

  11. J.S. Peyton – It sounds like people are pretty divided on Marquez. I don’t think I’ll be reading any more of his books.

    Framed – That seems to be his other well liked book. Let us know how it goes when you get to it.

  12. What the heck — I didn’t know that Rushdie book was out in the magic realism school either! I’ve avoided this Marquez book precisely because it’s been hyped beyond endurance and I suspect my reaction would be, if I tried it, as tepid as yours.

    For other great “magic realism” authors I’d try Steve Stern. 🙂 Things actually do happen in his books, thank you very much, hilarious things even, and he’s a top notch writer. Seriously. You’ll drool over some of his word choices for hours.

  13. […] Mexico)82. Joy (Deal Breaker)83. Cathy (The Organized Student)84. Becky (Finding Betty Crocker)85. Matt (100 Years of Solitude)86. Historia (Sugar Camp Quilt)87. Sarah (A Clearing in the Wild)88. Sarah (A Tendering in the […]

  14. In reply to Eva: It’s not the first sentence by itself that’s so wonderful, but that, in those few words, GGM starts off the reader “in media res” and way off-kilter! Not only that, but he sets up the entire story.

    In a sense, the entire story is crammed into that one sentence.

    “Many years later”: Hey, I just started the book! Later than what? By this, GMM ets up the fluidity of time, how the future can be more real than the past, and how the present sometimes is just a rough sketch.

    “as he faced the firing squad”: The guy hasn’t been born yet and he’s about to die?!

    “Colonel Aureliano Buendia”: Must’ve been an important man who did something terrible. What’s IS his story?!

    “was to remember that distant afternoon”: He’s about to be killed, yet the past — a “distant” past, yet — seems more important to him. Who IS this guy??

    “when his father took him to discover ice.” Ice had to be discovered? Why is that moment so important to him now, of all times? Who had this discovered ice? Turns out that, as a metaphor and symbo, ice is important to the story: mirrors, frozen in time, forzen hearts, reflections, the extraordinariess of ordinary things.)

    The time thing: We’re being told in our (the reader’s) present about a future event that involves a past event but still in the future with reference to the story. My head hurts.

    It took me a while to get into the story, too.


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