One Hundred Years of Solitude is often cited as Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s finest and most famous work – part of the canon that led to him being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. It tells the story of the rise and fall of a mythical town, Macondo, following the fortunes of the founding family – the Buendias. In the genre of magic realism, it tells of fantastical events as though they are unremarkable and everyday, and alludes to both the history of Colombia, and tales from the Bible (and probably many other sources that passed us by).
The novel generally gets high ratings (on sites such as Amazon or Good Reads) although readers seem to fall into two categories – you either love it or it completely misses the mark. Most of the book group fell into the latter category – the majority had not finished it, and it was a slog for those that had. It is a hard read – it is a struggle to keep track of the characters as most share names (the family tree in the front of the book is essential). Marquez’s imagination and turn of phrase are wonderful as the opening sentence illustrates “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”. However there is no character or event is focussed on for long and there is little in the way of dialogue. There are many themes: solitude in terms of place and within relationships; the loneliness created by pride, leadership and obsession; the importance of communication and memory to prevent the repetition of the past; the cyclic nature of history.