There are books which one can either hate or like and then there are books which lie somewhere in between.
‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, written by the Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, falls in the latter category. One of the highly acclaimed books of the past century, One Hundred Years…. is based on the theme of magical realism. Set in the surreal town of Macondo, the story is about the 4 generations of Buendia family, a family all whose members breathe the air of solitude. The book is weird and complex, to an extent of being esoteric. Reading this book would require silent perseverance and finishing it would be an accomplishment in itself.
Let us look at few dimensions which are unique in this book. Perhaps, that could help you to evaluate the worth of this book:
1) The Structure: The birth, the rise, the success and then the extinction of the Buendia family, all the stages are marked by the presence of inexhaustibly repetitive characters. The main characters across the four generations share only four names (There are as many as 22 Aureliano, and 5 Jose Arcadio, and quite a few Amaranta and Ursula across the generations).
Had it not been for the family tree – which one has to refer time and again- at the beginning of the book, it would be impossible to finish the book without going crazy!!
Because of its complex structure, the book is not a page turner. Because of the unique way in which the story unfolds, I rate the book high on this regard.
2) The Scope: War and Revolution, Love and Lust, Supernatural and Scientific, Conservatives and Liberals, Goodness and Perversion – the book talks on so many aspects. And perhaps that is the reason it arouses mixed emotions. The book is so chaotic that it is impossible to understand its main purpose.
While reading there were several occasions when I was completely lost in the cobweb of the characters and their purpose.
If you prefer deep discussion on the aspects then you may not enjoy this book for its scope.
3) Magical Realism: This is a genre with a flavor of magic and superstition in an otherwise indistinctive and real life. Floating Mats, Talking Ghost, Birth of a Baby with a pig tail, Premonition about the exact timing of the death and the Ascension of the most beautiful women to the heaven – there are many surreal instances in the book which spices the otherwise dull life of Macondo.
Magical Realism is the most unique feature of the book and you will either like it or hate it.
4) The Flow of the Plot: One good part about the book is the pace at which the story flows. As a reader one simply does not have the luxury to skip few pages or even paragraphs, as the story never halts at any place. Yes, the characters are repetitive as the author has portrayed solitude in some way or the other in all the main characters.
The story has been told in an intense manner and reading it requires a good amount of concentration. And just because of the amount of concentration the book requires, I give it 1 rating less.
5) The Language: On the language front, the author has been parsimonious. While setting up the plot too, rarely has he been verbose. The usage of the language in terms of analogies and metaphors is uncreative. However, the adjectives and verbs have been used pin pointedly.
If you read books for the pleasure of the language then you may not rate this book high.
6) The Tone: There is humor, there is aggression, there is passion, there is surrealism but the overall tone of the book arouses the feeling of solitude. Full Marks to Gabriel Garcia Marquez on successfully blending the title of the book to the emotion it arouses.
Overall Suggestion: If you are a beginner then this book can end your career as a reader. If you like to experiment with your reading and have stomach for a complex plot, then I recommend this book.