What an honor to one’s family to write a masterpiece inspired by the tales of a grandmother. Such is said to be the case with One Hundred Years of Solitude, and oh, what an inspiration this woman surely was.
Set in the fictitious town of Macondo, founded by Jose Arcadio Buendia, we follow his family from the 1800’s to the 1900’s. The area is quite isolated and visited only by traveling gypsies hoping to sell their wares. Life is simple and uncomplicated until curiosity in what lays beyond Macondo results in potential troubles and when outsiders see the area’s potential for growing bananas, the townspeople are exposed to modern machinery and a diverse group of people.
Marquez spins his yarn through the eyes of a variety of Buendia family members. The recurring theme for each is the unexpected yet inevitable solitude each of them face either throughout or at the end of their lives.
The Buendia patriarch, Jose Arcadio, is a man fascinated by invention. Considered the town’s leader, he’d rather be off alone taking things apart to figure out what makes them function. His obsessive behavior sometimes blinds him to matters at hand and he eventually is considered mad and spends his remaining years tied to a tree outside the family home.
Ursula is the wife of Jose Arcadio and observes all her husband fails to see and then some. She is a strong and determined woman who is the one who rises up in times of crises and keeps the family and their home together. She outlives most of the family including her children and in her time, perceives the true character of all her offspring.
Daughter to Ursula and Jose, Amaranta is a willful woman who holds lifetime grudges after continuously denying herself any chance at happiness or companionship. The word martyr comes to mind with this character and not in a complimentary way.
Colonel Aureliano Buendia is the son who appears at the book’s opening facing a firing squad while recalling with nostalgia an outing with his father where they are shown ice for the first time. He ends up a famous rebel when he uncovers corruption and spends his life fighting wars and facing death over and over. He comes to believe his efforts were for naught and after years of resistance, gives in without a fight and lives out his years bitter and alone.
There are many more wonderful characters, but far too many to reveal here and even after just completing this story, it is one I can see myself returning to at another time, like visiting distant relatives.
Such a wonderful writer would surely be a great story-teller and I am quite sure I’d be enthralled for hours with the fine Mr. Marquez. I’d let him pick the locale; Mexico, Cuba, Colombia…Wherever the locale, I believe I’d be at ease in the company of such a talented writer, and of course, would hope to glean some of that talent.
My rating for One Hundred Years of Solitude is an 9 out of 10.
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