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on 9 August 2015
I have had One Hundred Years Of Solitude on my kindle for nearly a year now, since I enjoyed losing myself in my first Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, Love In The Time Of Cholera. One Hundred Years is equally as immersive a novel which tells the story of a remote South American village from its inception to its happy years, on through a nationwide civil war, to its near destruction by greedy white industralists, and through years of constant monsoon-like deluge. I love the huge scale of the story, especially as it is contained within a single small village and, a lot of the time, in one large house.

The extended Buendia family are the central pivot and their matriarch, Ursula, is a great character. She sees several generations live and die, stay near or travel away, and all named for the generation before which leads to incredible potential confusion for the reader. It seemed at times as though all the many male characters were named either Jose Arcadio or Aureliano! Initially I tried to remember the familial relationships of each as they were mentioned, but this became far too baffling so I instead just kept reading and found that discreet indications in the text allowed me to know about whom I was reading as I got to know the family better.

Marquez' knack for language and description is fabulous. I loved imagining the invasion of the schoolgirls, Aureliano playing the accordion at his parties, the Colonel becoming wearied of endless war, Melquiades continuing despite death, the old Jose tied to the tree, the candied animals and the little gold fishes, the gringos locked behind wire fencing in their chicken coop houses, the people becoming moss-covered in the endless rain. One Hundred Years Of Solitude is worth reading for its imagery alone, but when so many human stories are threaded through as well, the novel transforms into a superb experience.
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on 10 February 2018
This is an amazing book, but difficult in a lot of ways. I wasn't prepared for what it was like. A new reader needs to go into this with a very open mind! But I think if Angela Carter, Emily Bronte, Leo Tolstoy and Graeme Greene had collaborated on a book, it might have turned out a little bit like this. You have to be prepared to get involved - it's very long. You have to be patient, because events don't always happen chronologically. The sense that history constantly repeats itself is expressed in family names being handed down the generations (especially Aureliano!) but it's easy enough to keep track since they are given either their full name - e.g. Aureliano Segundo - or a nickname (the second Remedios is always called 'Remedios the Beauty'). I was struggling with it initially, and quite daunted by the length of it so got audio transcription. It's a lot easier to listen to it and the audio on this version is great. When it got to the end, I couldn't stop listening; I'm caught in the trap of it now, and listening/reading through for the second time (which is good actually as things become a lot clearer second time around). I think this is a book that can stand a lot of readings.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 22 April 2018
One Hundred Years Of Solitude is a book which I had a strong feeling, in the early chapters, I was going to dislike but which eventually won me over. There are three main reasons I didn't think I was going to get on with it. Firstly, it is very definitely a work of Magical Realism. Fantasy I can understand. Fantastical things happening in a fantasy world I can handle. Fantastical things happening in an everyday world I have more trouble with. Is Magical Realism simply fantasy for literary writers who don't want to admit to writing fantasy? Or perhaps here, where the magic feels truer, more alive, does it point to fantasy as a dead end for those who have lost touch with magical writing. The magic in this book brings some wonderful images, a young woman so beautiful and innocent she spontaneously ascends to heaven; visiting gypsies bring a magic carpet and use it to offer cheap fairground rides. This latter gives a marvellous picture of every day life going on while screaming children fly past the window. There is also a tantalising hint, in one of the recurring themes of the book about confusion of myth and reality, that what the gypsies really brought was a Thousand and One Nights.

My second reason for wanting to dislike this book is the nominative confusion. It is primarily the story of the Buendia family in which nearly all of the sons, grandsons and great grandsons (&c) are called Arcadio or Aureliano, and most of the girl children are called Remedios. To go off on a tangent, I took a strong aversion to the confusion inherent in Hilary Mantel's first Thomas Cromwell book, and found the petulant correction in the second rather childish. Here,the confusion is initially solved by frequent reference to the family tree provided at the start. My second reaction was to go with the flow, and not worry precisely which generation was in the spotlight. Finally, the confused net of names simply becomes part of the fabric of the novel in which time and identity are fluid, twisting concepts.

My third initial difficulty came with the concept of time. I have a prediliction for good old fashioned linear story telling. Make your plot as complex as you like, but include in it a strong narrative drive, and I am happy. That is not the case with One Hundred Years of Solitude. It is better looked at as a patchwork tapestry, a series of small vignettes stitched together to make a rich, coherent whole. It can be appreciated from a distance, taking in the complete picture, or in close up detail.

The setting of the book is the village of Macondo, founded by Jose Arcadio Buendia and his wife Ursula on the banks of a river of clear water, somewhere in South America, one might guess at Columbia simply on the basis of the author's nationality. The time is also indeterminate, the hundred years seem to settle somewhere across the 19th and early 20th centuries, but some early chapters hint at being only a couple of generations removed from Francis Drake visiting South Amercia. The village, and in particular the Buendia family, are home to a wide array of quixotic visionaries, rock-like matriarchs, revolutionary fighters, tragic lovers, obsessive hermits and extravagant gourmands. It is the characters who are the jewels at the centre of the novel. Ursula, holds the family together despite the idiotic obsessions of her husband (which bring a great deal of humour to the early chapters), and the sexual excesses and military adventures of her offspring. Colonel Aureliano Buendia, fought thirty two armed uprisings and lost them all, survived fourteen attempts on his life, seventy three ambushes and a firing squad and eventually in old age supported himself by making jewelled golden fishes. Aureliano Segundo married a beauty from the city, Fernanda, but lives half with her, half in bacchanalian excess with his concubine. Fernanda herself who tries to bring order and gentility to the anarchy of the Buendia clan.

As well as writing a family history, Marquez also mirrors political history. Colonel Aureliano Buendia is a catalyst for endless revolutionary civil war, even if his fervour seems to be fuelled by raging testosterone rather than ideological passion. The coming of the railway brings American settlers and unprincipled capitalism. That capitalism leads to civil unrest, military atrocity and state suppression of the truth.

The military, political and familial turbulence is mirrored by a rampaging sexuality. Generation after generation of young Buendias slip the parental bonds to indulge in affairs with older lovers, prostitutes, mechanics and dance teachers. Incest is forever lurking in the background, together with the fear of genetic mutation and a child being born with the tail of a pig. Reading with a liberal European eye in 2018, some of the sexual politics is troubling. A young girl is married as soon as she reaches puberty. Marital rape is features strongly. The concept of the happy hooker is very much to the fore.

One Hundred Years of Solitude is a long book, but there is so much in it that one feels its covers should be bulging. Strangely, however, if I was asked to distil a book so full of life down to a single theme it would be the rather bleak thought that we all die alone. In contrast to boil it down to a single word, that word would be "fecund".

As a final summary, stick with it, it's worth it.
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on 22 June 2015
“What did you expect?” he murmured. “Time passes.”

This novel is the rich and colourful account of one tumultuous century of love and war.

It documents the lifetime of Macondo, a solitary town hidden in a jungle in South America. We follow the lives of the notorious Buendia family from the patriarch of the story, Jose Arcadio Buendia, to the last of their line, Aureliano Babilonia, who dies swept away in the biblical hurricane that wipes Macondo from the face of the earth. It is hard to pin this story down to its raw materials as there is a vast multitude of interweaving storylines, but Marquez manages to capture an entire century through the lyrical portrayal of the most ordinary and extraordinary moments. These moments form a vibrant photo album that knits together the lives of the Buendias through all their many trials.

One of the most distinctive features of this work is how Marquez incorporates the supernatural into the depiction of the natural so that it appears as just that: natural. He once said that he wanted to write like his grandmother used to tell him stories. She would relate the epic, magical stories with a dead-pan expression as though she was describing the weather. This magic realism is certainly essential to the success of the novel, but I do not think this is what makes it so powerful...

Magic enhances the captured moments but it is humanity itself that endures.

It is the most fundamental human desires, fears and oddities that are so captivating because, made so vivid by the magical elements of the story world, they touch our hearts. This book is an exploration of what it is to be human. And so the over-arching themes of the novel emerge. For so ambitious a work there are of course many, but I would highlight three, three that run like veins throughout the story, the lifeblood of the novel: solitude, sexuality and time. These allow for the exploration of humanity at its most intense. I say ‘most intense’ as the characters are ruled by their deepest desires, passions and doubts, which, in their solitude, become the masters of their fates. Today we are still influenced by our basest passions, however, these become buried beneath the monotony of modernity. One Hundred Years of Solitude highlights the fundamental truth that it is our passion that makes us human, and in our solitude, these passions can destroy us.

It is Jose Arcadio Buendia’s wife, Ursula Iguaran, that marches inexorably on through the decades as a seemingly eternal guardian to her family, far more of a matriarch than her husband is a patriarch. It is she who is the custodian of their honour, their prosperity, their happiness. Undoubtedly my favourite character, she is not corrupted by passion as all the others are over the six generations, but is strengthened by it. She reminds me of a medieval Mrs Weasley. Or rather, Mrs Weasley reminds me of a wand-wielding Ursula!

The novel ends on the poignant and terrible note of solitude. Macondo was created from the passion of its founders, the inexhaustible fuel of their hopes and dreams, and it passes away into legend, forgotten, lost in the eternal potency of its memories. Its fate is predetermined, a city of mirrors to be shattered into a city of mirages, in turn, shattering the illusion of a brave new world and delivering the fatalistic moral that destruction is inevitable. History is mapped out before us intrepid humans and time repeats itself as we embark on the same journeys, doomed to our destinies of disillusionment and eventual destruction...

In short, Macondo is consumed by time.

“There was no mystery in the heart of a Buendia that was impenetrable for her because a century of cards and experience had taught her that the history of the family was a machine with unavoidable repetitions, a turning wheel that would have gone on spilling into eternity were it not for the progressive and irremediable wearing of the axle."
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on 20 May 2014
I just had to read this book as the Press were getting very animated about it following the authors recent death. Apparently Pres.Obama said it was marvellous as did many literary critics some described it as the Best book EVER written.....
So I embarked upon it with great excitement, it started of ok with a nicely described incident followed by almost incomprehensible prose I suppose they could be called. This roller coaster of almost incomprehensible story telling followed by brief interludes of good story telling ,perhaps for only a page or so continued throughout the book. I would not give up because something astounding is surely going to happen..sadly it didn't. Also to make matters worse the characters in the story covering several generations and families all seem to have the same names making it virtually impossible to distinguish between them.
I can only say I wont be looking for the sequel and can happily sit back and say like the little boy did in the fairy story..."the King is in the altogether as naked as the day he was born" and not be a critic who can't tell the truth being afraid to be frowned upon. Sorry Gabriel,not a patch on Ken Follett or Edward Rutherford.
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on 26 April 2017
I just couldn't get into it. No characterisation so couldn't remember who was who. Gave up in the end.
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on 5 July 2016
There is no doubt that this is a very well written piece of literature. However my enjoyment was spoiled by two frustrating themes. Firstly, as others have commented, the later generations have the same or similar names as predecessors. I found myself having to keep referring to the family tree. Secondly there is no reference to time. We learn that a couple of characters live beyond 100, but I have no idea what age other characters were when thay died, nor what ages did they have children. Nor have I any idea of when the novel is set. We start with very primitive standards of living and then the railway arrives and finally we appear to be in relatively modern times. As we go through 6 generations, did this all happen within around 150 to 200 years?
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on 16 March 2018
I found this story intriguing because the way it is written is very new to me. But I felt as if it was a 300 page introduction to a story. It just kept describing events and I was waiting and waiting for a scene that never happened. I would like to read more of Gabriel Garcia's books to see if they are all like this. I just felt a bit unfurfilled by this book, like it never gave you the chance to make decisions about the characters, it simply told you the way things were the motivations, the feelings. I would have liked to make my own judgement.

Despite this I read it fairly quickly, was enchanted very often and found it clever and beautiful. Some symbolism but not so much it became dull.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 10 June 2015
I really enjoyed this book at first, which reminded me a lot of Louis De Bernieres' 3 books set in Latin America,which I love, and I thought 'I am in for a real treat here'. However as the story unfolded the continual recurrence of the the same, and very similar, peoples' names across families and generations became a little confusing to the point I had to go back a few pages at time to pick up the thread again.

The story cover a hundred years in the life of a Colombian town - there are many happy events, but war and tragedy too. It mixes the the arrival of modern technology with fantasy - including flying carpets at one point and lots of ghosts. The overall effect is a little dreamlike, often melancholy, and always interesting. Almost 5 stars - but not quite because of the repeating of characters' names so often
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on 26 April 2017
A fantastical, allegorical, supernatural tale, born out of a bottomless well of creativity and imagination. Marquez's re-use of the same names throughout the generations of the Buendia family and its offshoots, gives the story a dizzying, bewildering quality, which serves to disorientate and detach you from place and time. So much so that the end, when it comes, catches you off guard and takes you by surprise. I laughed out loud at the conceit of it. Unique.
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