Prior to reading this, I was well aware than this is considered something of a modern masterpiece, with it often being cited as the book that led to Marquez being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Therefore I approached it with some anticipation, particularly as I enjoyed Love In The Time Of Cholera. However, I have also had many disappointments of books that have had high praise but which have nonetheless been disappointing. Notable recent examples have included Cloud Atlas and Midnight’s Children.
The start of the book is fantastic, and a real pleasure to read. In style, it is very similar to Love In The Time Of Cholera in that the language used is extremely poetic. This, however, is about as far as it goes. Having read the book from cover to cover, I really couldn’t tell you what it’s about. The story is set in a place called Macondo. It is somewhat ambiguous as to what sort of settlement Macondo is. At the start of the novel, it comes across very much as a small village. Later on, it seems to be a provincial area and at times it seems to be a whole country. The story itself is non-linear which adds to the confusion. So a character that is killed very early on crops up again alive and healthy later on.
The other thing that really annoyed me was the names. It’s supposed to be set across several generations, only to keep the idea of a link between them, almost every male character is named Aureliano or Jose. When this is combined with the non-linear story line what you end up with is a book made up of pages and pages of beautiful word-imagery that is disparate and incoherent. There are individual sentences in here that are wonderful, but adjacent paragraphs often bear no relation to one another.
The ending of the book (which I shan’t spoil) does go a long way to explaining why this is. I felt, however, that it was a bit too convoluted. Because of the issue of the names, the reader can’t really get to know any of the characters which is something I value a lot in a fiction book. So would I recommend it? Barely. It is a frustrating read, but there are some really beautiful phrases used where Marquez can, with just a few words, conjure up images in your head of stunning aesthetics.