Tuesday, 9 September 2014

One Hundred Years of Solitude

Having seen this book on a buzzfeed list of the 25 most difficult books, I had formed a certain impression of it in my head, so that when my sister recommended it to me I was a little reluctant. But she insisted that it was a wonderful book, and even lent me a copy, so I really had no excuse. I read this one while on holiday in Norfolk, and the picture below is from the North Norfolk railway.

One Hundred Years of Solitude


Gabriel Garcia Márquez


Epic, magical realism, er... Apart from that I'm not really sure. Work it out for yourself!

One-sentence summary:

The story follows many generations of the Buendía family as they encounter life and face the trials of human existence in a world that seamlessly blends magic and reality.


Let me start off by saying that I absolutely adored this book! It was quite strange and unsettling in places, and I often found myself feeling a little shaken while reading it, but all that just added to the book's power.

Throughout, the story is a strange mix of magic and reality, from the gypsies' flying carpets to the insomnia plague and the mysterious yellow butterflies. Each fragment of story is so intricately woven together and the novel is on such a large scale that it's sometimes hard to keep track of events, let alone relationships between people (the family tree in the front came in extremely handy!). But, for me, the fairly simple writing style (occasionally punctuated with flashes of an idea or insight) and the fact that the story was very event-driven rather than overly introverted and reflective meant it kept momentum and was quite easy to keep reading despite the complexity. 

Each character had their own twists and downfalls, and none were inherently likeable. That isn't a criticism though. While part of me felt like it was kind of a shame that all the characters were so flawed - they all started out with so much promise and just got more and more tarnished and broken as they got older -, this portrayal of imperfect people felt thoroughly realistic (though often the imperfections themselves were completely surreal). I loved how each character's flaws and foibles were unique, but also fell into a pattern of repetition.

In the end, the story is much bigger than the characters and their personal journeys. It explores the nature of death, time, memory, and the human existence. (Nothing too ambitious then!)

I mentioned earlier that I found some parts quite unsettling, and I think the key catalyst for those feelings was the theme of time passing. That is something that none of us can change or control, and being confronted with a story spanning six (buzzfeed says seven, but I count six...) generations really lays bare the fragility and brevity of human life in the face of time.

Final thoughts:

Basically, I just really loved this book. For me, it struck a perfect balance between the everyday and the extraordinary, the epic and the mundane. It's the kind of book that I don't know if I would recommend it to people just because I would worry that they wouldn't like it as much as I did and that would make me sad! I'm really really looking forward to reading more from this author.

What did you think of One Hundred Years of Solitude? Do you agree with my review? Have you read any other books my Marquez that you would recommend for me next? Let me know in the comments.


  1. One of THE BEST opening lines EVER. Though, I apparently didn't enjoy 100 Years of Solitude quite as much as you, but it was a fascinating story, and certainly out of the ordinary. I'm surprised it is categorized as "difficult to read". I didn't find it so...though without a family tree in the front of my copy, I surely would have been lost. My review: http://100greatestnovelsofalltimequest.blogspot.com/2015/01/one-hundred-years-of-solitude-by.html

    1. Yes I totally agree about the opening line! So intriguing.. Reading this review back, part of me is a bit annoyed I didn't go into more detail on my thoughts, as I know I would've had loads more to say. Curse you, past me! Hmm, I'll have to read your review to see what you disliked about it.. Though part of me is reluctant as I did think it was amazing when I read it and I don't want to tarnish the memory :P Thanks for your comment!

    2. Understand, I didn't say I dislike it; I didn't, which is to say....I did...like it that is, just not as much as you. Cheers.


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